White House press secretary Josh Earnest took fire during his Friday briefing over the decision to bar print and video journalists from President Obama’s meeting in the Oval Office with Ebola survivor Nina Pham.
During the briefing, Earnest was pressed with questions on the matter from multiple members of the press corps, including ABC’s Jon Karl and Yahoo! News’ Olivier Knox over why the press to the event was being restricted
“I would like to ask the White House, through you, to open the [Nina Pham] event to the full complement of print, television and radio reporters that typically cover an event like this.”
“In this case, we’re just going to do the still photographers,” said the White House flack.
“I mean, why?” responded Knox. “Is it out of concern for her? To me it seems as though it reduces the magnitude of this event.”
“I think in this case, we determined that the still photographers would provide the access necessary to ensure that you and the American people were informed of this event,” Earnest said.
After almost ten minutes of silence and talk about the most recent Ebola case in New York, Karl raised the issue again.
“This is an important event. Why ban reporters from this meeting? Why ban video cameras?” asked Karl. “Countless other events in the Oval Office under this president, other presidents, there are reporters present, there are video/television cameras present. Why does this White House decide on a meeting this important to say no reporters allowed? Why?”
“The good news is that reporters will be allowed at this event,” Earnest responded. “Your colleagues, the photo journalists will be in there to take a photograph of the event.”
“There will be no print reporters allowed, there are no television reporters allowed, there is no editorial presence. You’re only allowing still photographers.”
Earnest went on to say that the press corps were able to hear Pham talk earlier after she was released from the NIH in Bethesda.
“That’s not an answer to my question,” Karl shot back. “Why was this decision made?”
“Because, uh. Because, uh, reporters did have the opportunity to see her speak already,” said a stuttering Earnest. and this is an opportunity for the president to greet her at the White House, and we did want to make sure the photographers could see her do so.”
Earnest also noted that neither the president or Pham planned to make any comments at the event.
During the briefing, CBS News’ Mark Knoller tweeted that the White House Correspondents Association was filing a protest to the “stills only” photo op.
TV networks and WH Correspondents Assn file protest with WH over “stills only” photo op of Pres Obama and Nina Pham.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 24, 2014