After his jabs at Woodward, at Fox News’s Ed Henry and at other media outlets. the president ended his speech with extensive flattery of legacy media outlets.
He delivered the flattery even though journalists have complained since 2009 about his aggressive press aides, the tight curbs on reporters’ access to White House officials, and his personal reluctance to take questions from media.
For example, at most of his press conferences, including the March 1 event called to raise public concern about the pending sequester, Obama only takes questions from picked establishment reporters. His practice deters attending reporters from shouting questions at the president, and gives reporters an incentive to ingratiate themselves with press aides in the hope they will be picked to ask a question during the next press conference.
“This year alone, reporters have exposed corruption here at home and around the world,” said Obama, without mentioning any of the domestic scandals that have surrounded his administration.
Those scandals include his controversial response to the Sept. 11 jihadi attack in Benghazi, his pre-election rollback of immigration enforcement, his claim of authority to declare when the Senate is in session, and his administration’s failure to indict Jon Corzine, a former Democratic Senator and governor whose investment firms collapse amid claims of missing funds.
Reporters “have risked everything to bring us stories from places like Syria and Kenya, stories that need to be told … how something that happens or doesn’t happen halfway around the world or here in Washington can have consequences for American families,” he declared.
“These are extraordinary times … [and while] we’ll always have disagreements, I believe that we share the belief that a free press — a press that questions us, that holds us accountable, that sometimes gets under our skin — is absolutely an essential part of our democracy,” he claimed.
There’s little danger, however, of much media criticism during the next several months.
In fact, several of the skits produced by Gridiron members during the evening were markedly favorable to the president.
In a skit about the sequester, for example, the club’s journalists put the blame on Congress, not Obama, according to a report from the one print reporter allowed to observe the festivities:
You’d think a sound solution here would be a real no-brainer
They play a game of chicken just to see who’s more insane-er
The culprits, their identities could not be plainer
Nancy, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid and Speaker Boehner
Oh, mandatory legislative budget sequestration.