HOW THIS PROCESS WORKS…. I guess it was obvious that there’d be a flap surrounding Nico Pitney’s question at the White House press conference this afternoon, but that doesn’t give this “story” merit. Here’s the latest:
Some reporters and right wing bloggers are accusing the White House of “coordinating” a question with The Huffington Post at today’s press conference, suggesting this shows the White House cozying up to a lefty news outlet.
The White House, however, says No Dice. White House officials tell me they didn’t ask the Huffington Post reporter, Nico Pitney, what his question would be, and didn’t know what Pitney would be asking.
Of course not. For all the speculation about “coordination,” there’s even less here than meets the eye.
Let’s talk a little about this process. Sometimes, presidents call on specific journalists because they know, not what the question will be, but what the subject matter is likely to cover. At one of his press conferences, for example, Obama called on a reporter from Stars & Stripes. Did the president know what the question was going to be? No. Did Obama know it was likely to have something to do with U.S. troops? You bet. And why is that? Because that’s what Stars & Stripes covers.
Obama also not too long ago called on a journalist who covers the auto industry. He didn’t know the question, but Obama had reason to assume it would have something to do with the auto industry, and the president had something to say. That was the point.
Indeed, even today, Obama called on Macarena Vidal of the Spanish-language E.F.E. news agency, and who asked about Chile and Colombia. Did the president know what the question was going to be? No. Did Obama know it was likely to have something to do with Latin America. Of course, which is why he called on her — the president wanted to talk about his upcoming talks with President Bachelet.
This isn’t collusion. It’s not unethical. There’s nothing here that breaks with journalistic standards. Specifically with regards to Nico, the White House saw some value in responding to a question that came from someone in Iran, and knew that Pitney, given his recent work, was likely to ask just that. It’s no different than calling on someone who covers the auto industry and expecting a question about that industry. As White House spokesperson Josh Earnest explained, “We didn’t want to know the question, and we didn’t ask. This was a creative way for us to answer a question from an Iranian.”
If someone has a legitimate concern about Nico’s specific question, that’s one thing. But that’s just it — it was a terrific question that the president wasn’t anxious to answer.