White House reporters squirmed with frustration this weekend when President Barack Obama’s aides repeatedly stiff-armed their attempts to follow him on his three-day Florida vacation and his golf outing with Tiger Woods.
The media’s frustration prompted a protest by the White House Correspondents Association, and a rapid slap-down by the White House’s press shop.
“A broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend,” said a Feb. 17 statement from Ed Henry, a Fox News correspondent who is also the elected head of the WHCA.
“There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency,” he said.
“The press access granted by the White House today is entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings,” read the White House’s reply.
“It’s also consistent with the press access promised to the White House Press Corps prior to arrival in Florida on Friday evening.”
Republican activists and press flacks didn’t offer the reporters any sympathy.
Since 2009, the GOP’s efforts to track and publicize Obama’s activities and policies have been hampered by the White House’s wall of silence and by the established media’s lack of interest in reporting much news that is damaging or embarrassing to the administration.
GOP activists and legislators have long complained the media hasn’t pursued investigations into the White House’s “Operation Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal or the administration’s failure to prosecute Democratic allies on Wall Street. (RELATED: Complete coverage of Operation Fast & Furious)
Similarly, they have complained about the established media’s lack of interest in the president’s passivity when jihadis attacked the Benghazi diplomatic site in September 2012, or Obama’s political calculations on spending, immigration and much else.
The media also got no support from President George W. Bush’s former press aides.
“If Pres O wants 2play golf w Tiger that’s his prerogative,” said Ari Fleischer, who served as President George W. Bush’s spokesman to a hostile press from January 2001 to July 2003.
“If he doesn’t want it on camera, that is his right. Sorry WH press.”
The administration normally imposes tight curbs over reporters’ access to the president and his aides in the White House.
For example, at the White House, reporters are confined to the press room and a few press offices behind the cameras. Sometimes, however, individual journalists or groups of reporters are escorted to officials’ offices elsewhere in the White House, or in other buildings in the compound.