President Obama made a really big deal out of calling on and highlighting the fact that he called on Nico Pitney of The Huffington Post at his news conference. Pitney asked Obama a question about Iran, which is really no big surprise, even though the point of the news conference was to discuss the health care agenda.
But it turns out, according to Dana Milbank at The Washington Post, that Pitney was invited to the news conference by the White House (usually if you’re not credentialed with a hard pass you have to request a pass to get into a news conference at the White House) AND was asked to pose a question about Iran from the perspective of the Iranian people.
Good topic? Yes. Interesting perspective? No doubt. But as a journalist (yes, I AM a journalist, I just happen to have a blog, too) I just have to say — WHAT?!?!
Don’t get me wrong — I love that the Obama administration wants to call on political bloggers at the news conferences. More of us should be in there (I’m putting that on my 2009 ‘to do’ list now!) But last time I checked my journalism ethics, it’s not really kosher to have the person being questioned feed the queries to that reporter ahead of time.
So I have to wonder whether the invitation to attend the news conference was contingent on Pitney asking that question? What if he had said, “Thank you so much! I will definitely be there, but I prefer to decide on my own which question to ask if called on.”
That’s what I would have said. At least I think that’s how I would have responded. Or would it have been too tempting an opportunity to pass up? Would I have rationalized it somehow — well, just this one time I’ll ask the question they want me to. After all it is timely and topical. And it would get PunditMom some really good exposure!
I’m pretty sure I know the answer. I’m disappointed in Pitney and The Huffington Post for agreeing to that condition. I’m even more upset at the Obama White House. I thought they’d be better than that. Next thing you know, they’re going to be calling up Helen Thomas like the Bush people to make her give up her seat to someone they think will be more sympathetic to their cause.
Don’t call me if that happens. If it does, I’ll be out looking for a new profession.