DID REPORTERS REALLY EXPECT A SIT-DOWN?…. The White House posted an item to its blog yesterday, featuring Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan talking a bit about herself. It wasn’t too big a deal — it’s only about three minutes long — but it gives the viewer a little better sense of Kagan’s personal background and career.
Some in the media aren’t happy.
While the White House seems to believe the American people deserve to hear from Kagan, it has not made her available to reporters. That prompted some consternation at today’s White House briefing.
“It appears that Solicitor General Kagan did an interview yesterday right after the president’s announcement,” said a reporter. “You’ve now posted that on the White House Web site. Who did the interview? And can I have one?”
“I think it’s — I think it’s on the website if you want to see it,” responded Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Soon after, the reporter can be heard saying, an edge in her voice, “So a White House staffer interviewing her.”
The reporter went to emphasize how “frustrated” she is by the development. This morning, Fox News kept this up, complaining bitterly that the White House would do something so outrageous.
This is pretty silly. When Supreme Court nominees are introduced, in any administration, the standard practice is to deny media interviews before the confirmation hearings. That’s hardly surprising — no White House wants their nominee to get caught off-guard by a media professional, leading to a response that might be used against him/her. Obama’s team is handling this the same way every other modern West Wing has.
The difference, in this case, is that there’s now a three-minute bio clip on the White House website.
The decision to post an interview with Kagan conducted by a government employee — not a journalist — is in line with the Obama administration’s policy of regularly using new media tools to go around traditional media.
Well, sort of, but not really. This wasn’t really an interview, and the alternative wasn’t a sit-down with a journalist, but rather, no remarks at all.
A “Fox & Friends” host said there’s “no precedent” for the video. Since the Internet didn’t exist for most of American history, that’s probably true. But there’s also “no precedent” for a White House making a high court nominee available for traditional media interviews, either.
I realize there’s some animosity between media professionals (who want more access) and White House officials (who want less), but these new complaints are pretty weak tea.