Just weeks after vociferously complaining that reporters were not allowed to witness President Obama golfing with Tiger Woods, the working press was mostly barred from an annual dinner Saturday night at which President Obama yucked it up with Washington’s most elite journalists.
The invitation-only Gridiron Dinner never permits coverage, and this year it actually expanded access by allowing a White House print “pool” reporter to attend.
But with the event coming directly on the heels of Obama’s private three-day golf weekend last month in Florida – and the extensive handwringing in the press about White House opaqueness that followed it – the lack of network cameras and a larger press contingent at this year’s Gridiron Dinner will no doubt smack of hypocrisy to some.
The dinner, a Washington fixture since the late 1800s that every president since Grover Cleveland has attended, features Washington’s most august journalists letting their hair down by dressing up and performing skits while rubbing elbows – and playing figurative footsie – with the politicians they cover.
Obama has mostly shunned the affair, with last night being only his second appearance.
Speaking to Politico, Gridiron Club President Chuck Lewis of Hearst News said the presence of cameras at the event would ruin the fun.
But Chuck Lewis, the senior editor of Hearst News and current president of the Gridiron Club, says this isn’t about denying access — it’s simply that the dinner is an intimate affair not suited for cameras.
“We don’t allow cameras because we feel their presence would disrupt the ambience of the evening,” Lewis told POLITICO. “Everything is on the record during the evening. We have issued a press release with some of my (lame) jokes and with the texts of all the songs.”
But the White House could make the very same argument about Obama’s Florida retreat – that the presence of cameras and a contingent of working reporters would intrude on what is supposed to be a relaxing presidential respite with a few of Obama’s long-time compadres and his superstar golf instructor, Tiger Woods.