President Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was beat up by the White House press corps over the “planted questioner” at Obama’s press conference.
At Wednesday’s White House briefing, Gibbs insisted over and over again that Nico Pitney from the Huffington Post was not a planted questioner. When it was suggested, as I did yesterday, that the Obama plant was similar to the Hillary campaign planting questions during the Democrats’ presidential primary, (at about the 5:53 mark in the following video), Mr. Gibbs went into a “no, no, no, no” rebuttal:
To borrow a famous line from Shakespeare, Gibbs doth protest too much.
At the New York Times, Kate Phillips wrote Gibbs “insisted that Mr. Pitney wasn’t a ‘planted questioner,’ despite the fact that the HuffPo blogger had gotten a rare heads-up the night before that he might be called upon.”
Phillips explains that the significance of Obama’s planted questioner scandal is that it transforms Mr. Pitney into an advocate for the Obama agenda:
The problem is not just that Mr. Pitney, for just one day, was afforded a cherished seat in the room or given an airing for his question. And no one is diminishing his work that has drawn accolades for his devoted attention to an issue. Rather, the criticism is that he was cherry-picked, with a call-upon hours and hours beforehand, and handed a status that no one among the so-called elite of the press corps receives on any given day.
While that may indeed be a thorn in the feet of the corps who toil daily, the perception of a favored one who got exceptionally advance notice may send signals — far and wide — as to what lengths the administration will go to stage and control the message the president wants to send.
That is what has gotten lost in all the old vs. new media antagonisms. It’s not about Mr. Pitney’s work or for that matter, the question he asked. It’s about how the administration finagled the position in which he became an actor for the president’s agenda.
Does Obama truly expect the media to support his presidency with planted questioners? Has the main stream media’s unprecedented infatuation with Obama changed things that much?