Reporters from roughly 30 television networks, newspapers, magazines, and web sites celebrated the Fourth of July with Barack Obama at the White House last weekend. Why didn't you know that? Because they were sworn to secrecy.
We reported yesterday that Politico's Mike Allen was spotted milling about as a guest at the White House's "backyard bash" by the pool reporter, who was allowed into the event for 40 minutes and kept in a pen before being ushered out. When Allen quoted from the pool report in his Playbook column the next day, he deleted a reference to his own name and didn't bother to tell his readers that he was actually at the party.
Well, he wasn't alone. Gawker has learned that the White House gave tickets to virtually every major news organization that covers the president—the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, ABC News, NBC News, CNN, CBS News, and so on, about 30 in all. The reporters were invited to attend on the following condition:
Gee, so I wonder why the administration thinks they can dictate questions and coverage from these people...
"You are being invited to attend this event as a guest. Blogging, Twittering or otherwise reporting on this event is not permitted. If you feel that you cannot agree to abide by these ground rules, please don't claim a ticket."
There is a cosmic irony at work here: The party was "closed press." (Ha!) It was covered, under onerous restrictions, by a pool reporter—the Baltimore Sun's Paul West. West was ushered in by White House staffers for a mere 40 minutes, so he could record the president's remarks. He was kept in a pen so that he wouldn't run amok and interview someone. He shouted questions at Obama as he worked the rope line, which the president ignored. Then he was taken away. West wrote up his blindered account of the party and then e-mailed it to the White House press corps, many of whom were actually at the party, outside of the pen, hanging out with all the other guests. And then, because they had temporarily signed away the right to do their jobs in exchange for facetime with staffers, a few cold Stoudt's American Pale Ales, and some corn on the cob, their news organizations picked up that pool report and used it to tell their readers what happened at the party. This is how the press covers the White House.
What doesn't make sense, at all, is why a group of reporters who have recently begun clinging to the notion that they are independent of Washington's clubby morass of back-scratching self-congratulation would agree to attend an off-the-record party at the White House while one of their own is walled off in a pen like some forlorn scapegoat, doing the job they're supposed to be doing.
Because they want it both ways: they want to suck up to The One, but still claim to be 'independent reporters of news'.
And that, Helen, is why you are considered to be puppets. Because you are.