New White House spokesman Josh Earnest went on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday to discuss his new role as press secretary, and declared that Barack Obama is “absolutely” the most transparent president in United States history.
The statement came in a sit-down, taped interview with host Brian Stelter in a line of questions over the “adversarial” relationship the administration has with the press and a recent letter from the Society of Professional Journalists that demanded the White House become more transparent in its work.
“Some would say it may be more adversarial because you are all withholding more than ever,” Stelter said. “Have you seen this letter this week from the Society of Professional Journalists? 40 press groups all saying the president should be more transparent.”
Earnest quickly shot back that journalists wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t send letters demanding more transparency.
“Look, I think the president’s record stands up to any of the records of his predecessors,” Earnest replied. “They’re all journalists. The day that they sit back and say, ‘we don’t need to write a letter, the White House is telling us everything they’re supposed to,’ is the the day they’re no longer doing their jobs.”
“They say many federal agencies — across the government — are imposing terrible restrictions on the freedom of the press, and I wonder if there’s anything you can do in your new role to stop that, to improve the flow of information?” Stelter followed up.
“I am definitely committed and have a responsibility in this job to try to help the president to live up to his commitment to being the most transparent president in history,” Earnest stated.
The CNN host cut off Earnest before he could finish his statement.
“I am surprised you still said that line, ‘the most transparent president in history,’” Stelter told the press secretary. “He has been criticized so many times for saying that, given the prosecution of whistleblowers and other steps. You all still stick by that line?”
Earnest wasn’t shaken up and resolutely stated “Absolutely.”
He then listed off the administrations’ great track record of releasing wage reports as an example of its historic transparency.
Earnest’s assertion that the current administration is very transparent contradicts what Stelter’s former boss at the New York Times, Jill Abramson, said about the 44th president’s commitment to the cause.
“I would say it is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering, and that includes — I spent 22 years of my career in Washington and covered presidents from President Reagan on up through now, and I was Washington bureau chief of the Times during George W. Bush’s first term,” Abramson told Al-Jazeera in January.