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Are Reporters Feeding Carney Questions in Advance?

From a correspondent from a CBS affiliate in Arizona who was among a group of local reporters invited in to the White House Wednesday to interview President Obama

It was a very busy day. We started here shortly after 8 o’clock with a coffee with press secretary Jay Carney inside his office in the West Wing.

And this was the off-the-record so we were able to ask him all about some of the preparation that he does on a regular basis for talking to the press in his daily press briefings. He showed us a very long list of items that he has to be well versed on every single day.

And then he also mentioned that a lot of times, unless it’s something breaking, the questions that the reporters actually ask — the correspondents — they are provided to him in advance. So then he knows what he’s going to be answering and sometimes those correspondents and reporters also have those answers printed in front of them, because of course it helps when they’re producing their reports for later on. So that was very interesting.

First of all, it’s obvious this reporter doesn’t know the meaning of off the record. Clearly, if Carney said this, he didn’t intend for it to be reported. So thank goodness for bad reporters.

Given that she doesn’t understand basic journalism, it’s not clear to me that she got this exactly right. Speaking with the Daily Mail, Carney denied the report.

Hmm. I don't see that question on my list. Hmm. I don’t see that question on my list
Photo by Keith Koffler

Nevertheless, if true, it’s shameful. The public is being shown something that is even more of a charade than it appears, and it provides further proof for the validity of people’s suspicions about the coziness of the press and this White House.

It is definitely not true that all or even most of the questions are provided in advance. I can just tell you that I’ve been at the White House a long time and I would know if this was happening on a mass scale. And the notion of reporters being provided answers in advance sounds truly strange, given that there’s little reason for it if Carney gives the answer publicly from the podium.

Perhaps Carney meant that reporters often ask questions privately in their regular conversations with him before the briefing and then the questions come up – either from the same or different reporters – during the briefing.

This could be particularly true for TV and radio reporters who may ask a question again in order to get a sound bite they can put on the air.

But there are other, less innocent possibilities:

First, reporters may want Carney to prepare an answer so that they have a good quote – again, particularly in the case of TV reporters who want an eloquent sound bite.

Second, reporters may be hoping that if they let Carney know what they will ask, and he likes the question, he’ll call on them.

And third, it’s a great way to suck up to him. Simple as that.

If these things are happening, and I assume this correspondent can’t have gotten things completely wrong, it’s a disgrace.

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24 Responses to Are Reporters Feeding Carney Questions in Advance?

  1. Keith I respect what you stated that is not what happens. However I would love to see Carney not look at his notes. Catch him off guard.
    Those notes must be worked on by a lot of people to make sure they note answers for even the slightest things they feel may come up.
    Sometimes, it seems he has to look a little more than usual for the answer.
    I also feel there should be a rule about Carney talking in circles. The reporter is intelligent enough to ask a follow up question if he feels it is needed. Instead we have Carney rambling on and on, avoiding the main answer!

  2. Her name is Catherine Anaya. A perpetually cheerful TV personality who has some solid credits in journalism and community activism.
    A Hispanic who has all the right background that Dems love, a solid education, and best of all a well-known entity in ARIZONA!

    LOL, who could’ve guessed that she would bust through the iron-curtain of non-transparency and shine a light on the hypocrisy, phoniness and downright news suppression happening right there in the WhiteHouse? We can suppose that calls were made to the CBS affiliate here in Phoenix from the WhiteHouse, and MsAnaya won’t be invited to anymore events there.

    As for the questions and answers being pre-screened; I watch, I notice what happens at these press briefings. MrCarney takes a question, then turns a page on his briefing book to then

    • …oopsie
      ..to then read out what appears to be a prepared answer.
      There are moments when it seems that the question and answers are scripted all the way to the contentious banter from the front row elites.

        • Isn’t he PAID to offer eloquent sound bites?

          ALSO, I’m sure he has talking points prepared on the topics the press is expected to ask, whether given to him in advance. There aren’t too many tough questions, so he probably has 95% of the topics covered (BO’s next golf outing, MO’s trip to China, etc.).

  3. More importantly, is Carney feeding planted questions to the reporters in advance, just like they did with Crowley during the Romney debate?

  4. As a reporter of 35 years’ standing, I always refused to provide questions. To do so is very unprofessional. I think this may have gotten a foothold when lazy reporters started some interviewing by email…I hated doing that and can count the times when the person was abroad or insisted on it and the editor said OK. I guess the “profession” has changed that much. Yick. I know many people think these pols do get the questions–and I was outraged when they thought, for example, that the O’R interview was “scripted.” When this stuff comes out–who knows. Why even have a press?

  5. Well, Ed Henry said she’s wrong too, but would this regime really include Fox News in any staged press briefing? Also, the lady was so excited about the way the press briefings work that she doesn’t express one whit of doubt or concern over their phoniness, if that is truly what is going on. No doubt Catherine Anaya will be walking back her statement once this ruthless regime sics their attack dogs on her.

    • Was Ed at this same meeting with the out of town reporters ? And yes, who clues him into anything, Henry’s not as privvy to “insider” info :) Ms. Anaya was simply doing her job …. reporting honestly.

      • No doubt she was reporting honestly, it’s just her lack of concern and justification for the puppeteer performance in the end, “…because of course it helps when they’re producing their reports for later on.” Investigative journalism is dead.

  6. Catherine Anaya promised viewers she’d bring back a story about her interview with Obama and she certainly did. Given that in the past she and her co-anchor have reported several critical stories on illegal immigration I was surprised she was invited to the WH.

    Carney often goes through his folder and pulls out a report before responding to a journalist’s question. This certainly gives the appearance that he’s looking for a prepared statement to a question submitted in advance. It happens so frequently that it appears to be more than mere coincidence.

    As for Anaya, here’s a link to her bio at our CBS affiliate. She’s no slacker, that’s for sure.
    http://www.kpho.com/story/14848001/catherine-anaya

  7. Are we playing moderation monoply, (do not pass go, go directly to jail)? If so, it looks like it’s my turn to be stuck in jail today. LOL

    I have the utmost respect for Catherine Anaya. She’s been in Phoenix nearly two decades and is an award winning journalist.

  8. Real Clear Politics describes how the sausage is made – beginning when the six lucky anchors received their unsolicited email invitations from the WhiteHouse requesting the honor of their presence for a four-minute interview with the Big Guy.

    By the time they are finished with the Red Carpet treatment, they all must feel like lottery winners. Is it any wonder that Ms Anaya, filled with such euphoria, didn’t think twice about reporting exactly what she witnessed with her own eyes?

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/03/19/obama_taps_local_tv_anchors_to_send_aca_message_121983.html

  9. I listened to the audio of the reporter. What struck me is that, even if she misunderstood and there is no advance planning, she seemed so very agreeable about the whole thing! She seemed to think – how great, everyone meets their deadlines, get’s their soundbites, goes home. Is this how most journalists think now? Free Press is dead!

  10. If you’re a college student, and you get the questions to your exam ahead of time, you might just get expelled for academic dishonesty.

    If you’re a game show contestant, and you get the questions for your show ahead of time, you might just get prosecuted for collusion and fraud.

    But if you’re a White House press secretary, and you get the questions to your presser ahead of time, you might just be working for a Democrat.