In an "exclusive" interview with ABC, Barack Obama on Tuesday dodged responsibility for the ending of White House tours, stating, "I have to say this was not a decision that went up to the White House." The President placed the responsibility on the Secret Service. Later in the day, press secretary Jay Carney contradicted Obama and admitted that the White House cancelled the tours. ABC's World News on Wednesday and Good Morning America on Thursday didn't bother to cover updates on Obama's denial.
Appearing on the Washington D.C. radio show Mornings on the Mall, former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino called this flat wrong: "Not only did [the decision] make it to the White House, it started in the White House. The conversation was initiated in the White House." He added, "The calculus to shut down the tours was never initiated at all by the Secret Service."
Here's the exchange between Stephanopoulos and Obama (which aired on Wednesday's GMA):
STEPHANOPOULOS: You've been taking a lot of heat for this cancellation of the White House tours. I guess the Secret Service says it's costs about $74,000 a week. Was canceling them really necessary?
OBAMA: You know, I have to say this was not– a decision that went up to the White House. But– what the Secret Service explained to us was that they're gonna have to furlough some folks. What furloughs mean is– is that people lose a day of work and a day of pay. And, you know, the question for them is, you know, how deeply do they have to furlough their staff and is it worth it to make sure that we've got White House tours that means that you got a whole bunch of families who are depending on a paycheck who suddenly are seeing–
Later, Carney attempted to clarify for the President: "The Secret Service made the decision made a decision about its budget and to withdraw personal from its tours. We had to cancel the tours. It's our job to cancel the tours."
Bongino, who ran for the U.S. Senate in Maryland as a Republican in 2012, said of the Secret Service: "They are taking it on the chin for [Obama.]" Mornings on the Mall co-host Larry O'Connor wondered, "You know this for a fact because of your sources in the Secret Service?" Bongino quickly retorted, "Yes! Absolutely."
Considering that actual news developed from Stephanopoulos's interview, one would think that ABC would be interested in following up. Apparently not.
A transcript of the March 14 Morning on the Mall segment is below:
BRIAN WILSON: There's been some controversy about the decision to shut down tours of the White House. The President was interviewed about this yesterday and he simply said, "Oh, that, that didn't get to the White House."
LARRY O'CONNOR: I didn't do that. Not me.
WILSON: I happen to notice that Dan Bongino, former Senate candidate, former Secret Service agent tweeted out on this yesterday.
DAN BONGINO (Former Secret Service agent, for MD Senate Candidate): Here's the truth, Brian. Not only did– and this is the President's quote– he said, this decision never made it up to the White House. Not only did it make it to the White House, it started in the White House. The conversation was initiated in the White House. The Secret Service did not suggest these tours be shut down. They wouldn't shut down the White House unless it was for security purposes. The President is not telling the truth about this.
O'CONNOR: The White House afterwards, Jay Carney, said, well, the Secret Service said they were going to have to furlough people, so that's when we said, instead of furloughing good agents, let's do this instead. Does that sound a little more kosher?
BONGINO: Yeah, but, Larry, that's not what happened. This conversation was initiated and started, 100 percent, by the White House. The calculus to shut down the tours was never initiated at all by the Secret Service. Yes, they had to furlough people. But that's not what the President said. The President was clear as day. "This decision never made it up to the White House." This is a culture of blame and confusion.
WILSON: Is it possible he just didn't know that or they kept it from him. I mean, that seems like a very bold statement. He made it, I'm assuming, because somebody told him that was true.
BONGINO: No. That's absolutely not true. This was a decision made to exert maximum pain on the American people. You know, that's our house, Brian. The President doesn't get to–
O'CONNOR: Dan Bongino, you know this for a fact because of your sources in the Secret Service?
BONGINO: Yes! Absolutely. It's not true. They are doing– They are taking it on the chin for this guy. It is not true.