The main function of a White House press secretary is to distribute information for the administration, which often requires answering difficult questions. Apparently, no one knows this better than Jay Carney, the current spokesman for President Obama.
According to a study by Yahoo News -- which is by no means a conservative outlet -- Carney has dodged answering reporters' questions 9,486 times in the 444 briefings he's held since his first press conference on Feb. 16, 2011, by using 13 different methods, ranging from saying “I don't have the answer … ” 1,905 times to “The president won't tell me … ” on 117 occasions.
In an article on the study that examined what President Obama promised would be the most transparent administration in history, Rachel Rose Hartman and Chris Wilsony stated on Friday:
Jay Carney doesn’t have an answer for that. He hasn’t discussed that subject with the president. He will refer you to the Department of [insert agency here]. He refuses to speculate on that. He’ll have to get back to you.
But he appreciates the question.
In fact, Carney's many responses that he “appreciates the question” led the left-leaning Politico to create a video in which the press secretary says that phrase 131 times.
Reporters got several doses of those remarks during Friday's briefing, when Carney was asked what kind of aid America is sending to Syrian rebels.
"We have stepped up our assistance, but I cannot inventory for you the elements of that assistance,” the press secretary replied. “And as the president said, I cannot and will not get into some specifics about the assistance that we provide.”
When he was pressed further on the topic, Carney stated: “We can't comment on specifics around our program.”
Referring to another agency or person is one of Carney's favorite evasive maneuvers, which he has used 1,383 times.
Over the course of the 43-minute briefing on Jan. 25 alone, Carney referred reporters to the Justice Department four times, the National Labor Relations Board twice, the State Department twice, once to the historic precedent of recess appointments, once to a New York Times article, once to a speech that President Barack Obama delivered earlier in the week, and once to the Defense Department.
“As should be abundantly clear, Carney doesn't have all the answers,” Hartman and Wilsony noted. “As he recently reminded the gathered reporters at his briefing, he and his team are mere mortals battling an army of professionals bent on stumping him."
The following list indicates which methods Carney has used to avoid giving answers and the number of times he's used each of them:
"I don't have the answer … " 1905 times
"I would refer you to … " 1383 times
"You already know the answer … " 1125 times
"I'm not going to tell you ... " 939 times
"Not that I know of … " 927 times
"I don't want to … " 588 times
"I'm not sure ... " 549 times
"I won't speculate ... " 525 times
"No comment … " 429 times
"I'll get back to you ..." 387 times
"It's a good question … " 381 times
"See yesterday's nonresponse … " 231 times
"The President won't tell me ... " 117 times
Total: 9,486 evasions
What is just as amazing as all the obfuscating and refusing to answer questions that Carney has done during his tenure is that the White House press corps continues to put up with his shifty behavior. Had a Republican employed a press secretary who was so utterly dismissive and patronizing to the media, you can bet we'd never hear the end of it.
As NewsBusters recently reported, Carney has lately held fewer news conferences since the Obama administration has been the subject of several scandals, including accusations the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting conservative organizations that have applied for tax-exempt status, and questions regarding the assassination of four Americans in the Nov. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.