Another War of Jenkins' Ear

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Posts Tagged ‘Nico Pitney

Dana Milbank Is A Nincompoop

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During Tuesday’s press conference, the president called on Nico Pitney from the Huffington Post.  This was somewhat prearranged in that the White House had asked Pitney to attend the press conference with a question directly from an Iranian.  They had no foreknowledge of the specific selection, nor did they prescreen in any way.

Here’s what Milbank had to say about that:

Pitney asked his arranged question. Reporters looked at one another in amazement at the stagecraft they were witnessing. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel grinned at the surprised TV correspondents in the first row.
The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world — Iran included — that the American press isn’t as free as advertised. But yesterday wasn’t so much a news conference as it was a taping of a new daytime drama, “The Obama Show.”

Pitney asked his arranged question. Reporters looked at one another in amazement at the stagecraft they were witnessing. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel grinned at the surprised TV correspondents in the first row.

The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world — Iran included — that the American press isn’t as free as advertised. But yesterday wasn’t so much a news conference as it was a taping of a new daytime drama, “The Obama Show.”

To an extent, I agree with Milbank.  Planting questioners, who ask favorable or prearranged questions is a no-no and should be frowned upon.  Sort of like what the Bush Administration did with Jeff Gannon, a gay prostitute turned White House press corps pro-administration questioner.

But, Milbank misses the notion of distinctions.  You see, while mainstream news outlets were too busy mucking up their coverage of Iran, Pitney was doing a superb job.  This is in part why the White House tapped him.  In this case, giving an Iranian citizen an opportunity to ask a question to the President is not the same as sticking someone in the corps to ask a favorable question.  To the contrary, it’s an example of being over inclusive.

Milbank is wrong in his analysis. Maybe he’s just jealous that the Iranian posed a better question to the President than most White House reporters are able to muster.  The question was actually quite challenging.

Compare the question Pitney chose:

Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad? And if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn’t that a betrayal of what the demonstrators there are working towards?

With one of the members of the corps that sits near the front:

In your opening remarks, sir, you were — you said about Iran that you were appalled and outraged. What took you so long to say those words?

I rest my case.

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Written by Angelo

June 25, 2009 at 1:19 pm