White House Reporters Livid at Recent Lack of Press Access

February 3rd, 2011 1:53 PM

The White House Correspondents Association is very displeased with the lack of press access they've received of late. The WHCA sent a letter to press secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday, expressing their dismay that print and television reporters were not allowed into the president's Tuesday meeting with cabinet secretaries, or the START Treaty signing the following day.

The White House television pool chimed in on Thursday, echoing the WHCA letter, which "protest[ed] in the strongest possible terms" the lack of press access during the two events.

Here is Wednesday's WHCA letter:

Good morning Robert,

We recognize that the crisis in Egypt is a quickly evolving story, and you are working to get us the information we need in a timely manner, but we are concerned about several access issues on Tuesday and now today.

On behalf of the White House Correspondents Association we are writing to protest in the strongest possible terms the White House’s decision to close the president’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and his signing of the START Treaty today to the full press pool.

The START treaty was held up as one of the president’s most important foreign policy priorities for almost a year dating back to the trip to Prague last spring. We are concerned that now his signing of it is open to still photographers but closed to editorial, including print and wire reporters and television cameras.

We know the president came out late last night to speak on Egypt, and we appreciate the e-mail updates from NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor, but his e-mails have not gone to all members of the press corps and are not a substitute for access to the press secretary or the president.

Prior to the president's statement Tuesday night, the press corps had not received a substantive update from the White House all day on the situation in Egypt. In addition, the press corps did not have an on-camera briefing, or an off-camera gaggle, with you yesterday to ask the White House about its decision-making process during this major foreign policy crisis. Now for two straight days, the full press pool is being shut out of events that typically have been open and provided opportunities try to ask the president a question.

These issues are vitally important for all of our members — print, TV and radio.

We value our working relationship, and we hope you will reconsider and at least open the START Treaty signing to the full pool.

Thank you for your consideration,

The WHCA Board

CBS News's Washington bureau chief followed up with this letter on Thursday:

Dear Robert,

On behalf of the five network TV pool, we strongly protest the decision to prevent our reporters and video cameras from covering the signing of START at the White House this morning.

Before the vote passed the Senate President Obama called the treaty “a national security imperative for the United States.” Assuming that remains true, it seems unreasonable to ban television journalists from such a significant event.

We also must protest the exclusion of TV journalists from yesterday’s cabinet meeting, which was designated a “stills only” event. Needless to say, this is a disturbing pattern, which not only prevents us from covering the event but also restricts our ability to ask the president about important news of the day, such as the situation in Egypt.

And while we applaud the administration statement this morning supporting our colleagues under attack in Cairo, there seems to be some irony in the fact that reporters in the White House are being kept at a distance from the president. To our knowledge President Obama has yet to answer one question from the White House press corps about the crises in Egypt.

In sum, on behalf of the members of the White House TV pool, we respectfully request that you discontinue the practice of designating “stills only” events and permit our reporters and crews to cover the president.

With best regards,


At Ace's place, Dave in Texas quips: "They want to help him, they just need a couple of clues to go on."

At this White House, press transparency is so 2008.