New York Times Goes Giddy Over Sight of Obama Reporting for Jury Duty

On top of the big stories? Demonstrating just how much the press misses President Obama, New York Times reporter Mitch Smith reported the big news that “Obama Reports for Jury Duty, to Chicago’s Delight (Spoiler: He Was Not Chosen).” And to the delight of Smith as well, judging by the unjournalistic giddiness that ensued over Obama, the "Harvard-educated constitutional scholar," deigning to mix with the proles:

Barack Obama, former leader of the free world and current Illinois taxpayer, returned home on Wednesday for that most somber of civic obligations: jury duty.

And as much as Chicago tried to play it cool, people here were entranced by the sight of a former president reporting to Room 1700 of a county courthouse, plopping a red juror sticker on his jacket and earning the $17.20 daily stipend -- almost enough to pay for parking.


What exactly was the fixation with seeing Mr. Obama, in a bland, cramped waiting room?....

Yes, tell us, Mitch! Here's more:

His arrival injected an odd, cocktail party feel to a room that usually seems more like the waiting room at a doctor’s office -- silent, with people huddled alone over books and crossword puzzles trying to pass the time. In a open-collar dress shirt and sport coat, Mr. Obama swept into the room with his entourage of security, going down the line shaking hands.

Smith indicated Obama would have been a juror extraordinaire:

As excited as people were to see Mr. Obama, it was another question entirely whether he could ever conceivably end up on a jury. Would lawyers really want to argue a case in front of a Harvard-educated constitutional scholar -- not to mention a former president? Plus, where would you put the Secret Service detail during deliberations?

Smith eventually mentioned this wasn’t the first time an ex-president was summoned:

Of course, Mr. Obama was not the first political celebrity to receive a dreaded jury summons. George W. Bush reported for jury duty in 2015 in Texas, though he was not seated. And Joseph R. Biden Jr., then Mr. Obama’s vice president, was dismissed from a Delaware jury pool in 2011.

That "Of course" line aside, the New York Times evidently didn’t find Bush’s similar humanizing brush with jury duty similarly fascinating, as a search turns up no coverage from the paper at the time:

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But there was something about seeing Mr. Obama, only 10 months removed from the presidency, back in Chicago and smiling through a chore of citizenship that resonated with people in this city where he kindled his political career.

One man, apparently a courthouse worker, arrived early wearing a winter hat that said “OBAMA.” A barista working the early shift at the courthouse Starbucks giddily told a co-worker “it’s a possibility” that they would see the ex-president. One potential juror placed a phone call after spotting the phalanx of news cameras: “I think Barack Obama’s going to be here today,” she said.

Alas, though the prospect of the questions he might have been asked was fodder for much discussion, Mr. Obama never had a chance to even be questioned as a possible juror. ...


Searches on Google and turn up no story about ex-president George W. Bush’s brush with jury duty, certainly not a gushy one like the one the Times gave Obama. (Some other outlets like USA Today did a light-hearted treatment of Bush at the time.)

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Bias by Omission Double Standards New York Times Illinois Barack Obama George W. Bush
Clay Waters's picture