Last Saturday, reporters convened at a meeting called by the White House Correspondents Association that would allow them to air their grievances with the Obama administration. The goal of the WHCA seminar was to find a way to make communication between the press and Obama more seamless, despite the fact that the administration claims they are one of the most transparent in history. While it has been said many times before, the sharpest criticism came from USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page, who called the Obama administration the "most dangerous" in history for press.
Page isn't alone in her opinion. A litany of Washington reporters have spoken out against the president's tight-lipped approach and secretive dealings. At the seminar, journalists spoke up one by one, providing examples of how the White House had shut them out, from Obama's recent meeting with Ebola survivor Nina Pham to countless briefings with officials that the administration would ask to remain unnamed in reports.
Despite its self-congratulatory claims of transparency, the Obama administration has stunted White House reporting and threatened press freedom. But just how has a man known for dazzling speeches be so closed off to the people who largely fueled his campaign? Here are some of Obama's shadiest moves with the press.
Obama's recent meeting with Nina Pham, the nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, was open to some still photographers, but closed to reporters. And that isn't the first time that Obama has had press-worthy meetings without, you know, inviting the press. He also met with Ebola survivor Kent Brantly, but did nothing to inform the press that the meeting was even happening, much less that they wouldn't be allowed in. Most of the press didn't find out until White House photographer Pete Souza's photo was send out as a press release.
James Risen and the Espionage Act
The Obama administration has charged more people under the Espionage Act than any other presidency. That isn't hyperbolic political statement, it's a fact. The nearly century-old act has been used to bring charges on eight Americans in Obama's two terms. Some of them you know well — Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. But names you may not hear associated with the charge are people such as Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA employee who allegedly leaked information about a secret operation code-named Merlin to New York Times reporter James Risen. Not only has Sterling been charged in violation of the Espionage Act, but the Obama administration has aggressively pursued Risen, who still refuses to reveal his source, even using the threat of jail to try to secure evidence against Sterling.
If you read political news with any frequency, you will find that the information is never coming from named figures, but rather "senior White House officials." This is a longstanding tradition in White House reporting, where sensitive information is introduced by some shadowy figure. White House correspondents have complained that the Obama administration has taken this accepted practice to an extreme, using the crutch of anonymity for even the most harmless breaking news.
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