Updated 11:20 am ET
President Obama failed to contradict French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week when Sarkozy termed Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netenyahu a liar, responding instead that Netanyahu was basically a pain in the ass, according to Reuters.
“I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on, enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation.
“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama replied.
The two leaders were together in a room, about to hold a joint press conference at the G-20 Summit in Cannes, France, and they thought their microphones were not yet live. But they were, and some reporters who turned on their translation-providing earphones before they were supposed to picked up a conversation that was meant to be private.
But they didn’t report it. Exactly when did journalists start worrying about whether news was not intended to be made public?
According to Israel’s ynetnews.com, reporters present subsequently signed an agreement not to publish the remarks. Only after the French photojournalism website Arret Sur Images reported the exchange did Reuters, which had a reporter on the scene, “confirm” it with a story.
The surprising lack of coverage may be explained by a report alleging that journalists present at the event were requested to sign an agreement to keep mum on the embarrassing comments. A Reuters reporter was among the journalists present and can confirm the veracity of the comments.
A member of the media confirmed Monday that “there were discussions between journalists and they agreed not to publish the comments due to the sensitivity of the issue.”
He added that while it was annoying to have to refrain from publishing the information, the journalists are subject to precise rules of conduct.
Precise rules of conduct?? Journalism is supposed to be about NO RULES OF CONDUCT, except in certain cases when national security or the safety or livelihood of individuals is involved.
It’s incredible to me that White House reporters were involved in suppressing information. They may have had to break the “rules,” but once you have information, you report it, even if it means someone is going to be angry at you. For journalists to actually sign some kind of agreement to not report, ever, a major news story is a disgrace beyond words.
This is why people don’t trust the media. It’s why so many conservatives reacted with such disdain to what I think are legitimate reports about alleged sexual harassment by Herman Cain. I cannot help believing some of the very same reporters who signed the non-disclosure deal about Obama’s remarks would have clung to exalted claims of journalistic integrity and reported the matter had it involved George W. Bush.
This is only Obama’s latest personal insult toward Netanyahu, having already walked out of a March 2010 White House meeting with him and left him hanging out on his own in the West Wing to stew with aides over whether he could come up proposals more to Obama’s liking.
During the conversation with Sarkozy, Obama also criticized the French president for voting to allow the Palestinians to join UNESCO, an event which forced the U.S. to withdraw funds from the agency, and fretted about the consequences of the Palestinians signing up with other UN outfits, like the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“You have to pass the message along to the Palestinians that they must stop this immediately,” Obama said.
UPDATE: Traveling with the press corps to an Obama event near Philadelphia, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today refused to comment on Obama’s remarks, but he did not deny them.