It was the pot calling the kettle black on Morning Joe Tuesday. Joe Scarborough was up in arms over President Obama’s criticism of the media for not reporting the way he would like. Scarborough called Obama out for opting for more friendly news outlets that provided the “easiest questions and he would be speaking to his audience directly.” But the fact is Morning Joe had their own softball interview with the President.
Scarborough kicked off the segment by pointing out Obama’s hypocrisy of saying the media should have high standards. Commenting that Obama has not done an extended interview with the Washington Post in the over seven years of his presidency, “and yet gladly submits himself to being interviewed by YouTube stars who sit in bathtubs with milk and Fruit Loops [GloZell] … And also another podcast called WTF. With a liberal L.A. Comedian.”
It’s true that it is ridiculous that the President of the United States does “media” engagements like this while rarely doing press conferences, let alone extended interviews with reputable outlets. So it should be understandable that the few times he does give those interviews the time is precious and should be filled with hard hitting questions. But that’s not what happened when Obama appeared on Morning Joe on October 29, 2012.
Scarborough: So, how do you feel? It’s like - you got to be excited.
Obama: I’m excited.
Joe: But at the same time, it’s like Dr. J, when he went around, you only have 9 more days to do this.
Obama: Well, we are going to be campaigning as hard as we can. One of the things that happens at this point is - it’s just kinetic energy. You’re just running, and you just want to make sure that your voters are enthusiastic, that you’re getting your message out in a clear and concise way.
Scarborough: But, this is though. When I say that this is like Dr. J, you know. He went around last year, and it’s bittersweet.
Obama: It is.
Scarborough: This has to be bittersweet for you. ‘Cause I saw you out there, and I thought, Oh my God. This guy is not going to be doing this again, after and then, you’re going to have to be like Bill Clinton and find other people to campaign… (laughs)
Obama: It is true.
Scarborough: It has to be bittersweet for you.
Obama: Well, you get a little nostalgic. I mean, you start thinking about your first campaign.
When Morning Joe got their chance to shine and grill Obama with the tough questions they asked him if felt like basketball legend Julius (Dr. J) Erving.
Co-host Mika Brzezinski featured the twitter reactions of renowned journalists. One of whom was Sam Stein, an senior political editor at the Huffington Post and has often appeared on Morning Joe. ““After this barnburner from Obama on the responsibilities of robust press coverage, I'm eager to see the spike in on the record White House briefings.”” Stein twitted. Stein’s tweets gives weight to fact that the White House actively avoids direct questions to the president.
Jim VandeHei, President and CEO of Politico, was on the panel and hammered Obama administration for making it difficult for journalist to hold the White House accountable. “One of the big critics you'll hear from investigative reporters at Politico, and other organizations, is the lack of transparency in the FOIA process.” VandeHei said. “And any reporter who has dealt with this White House would say it's as frustrating if not more frustrating than dealing with the Bush Presidency.”
He also pointed out that the President does favor those that side with him heavily. Evidence of this when the administration tried to force Fox News out of the White House press pool, before the other outlet stood up for the network.
The problems serious reporters have with the transparency of the Obama administration are valid, since it hinders their ability to hold government accountable. And when they do get the rare opportunity to speak with him they don’t ask if he feels like a basketball legend.
March 29, 2016
6:53:31 – 6:57:02 AM Eastern
BARACK OBAMA: While fairness is the hallmark of good journalism, false equivalency all too often these days can be a fatal flaw. If I say that the world is round and someone else says it's flat, that's worth reporting. But you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round. A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone. It would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability. Especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can't keep. And there are reporters here who know they can't keep them I know that's a shocking concept.
[ Applause ]
JOE SCARBOROUGH: There is a man lecturing the media on how to do their business. The man who has not sat down for an extended interview with the Washington Post in seven and a half years, and yet gladly submits himself to being interviewed by YouTube stars who sit in bathtubs with milk and Fruit Loops.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I um-- The one with the big hair [GloZell], yes. Okay so, that was President Obama speaking last night at the Toner Prize Awards dinner in D.C. President Obama calling on the media to hold themselves to a higher standard.
SCARBOORUGH: Fruit Loops, I say.
BRZEZINSKI: I think it was Apple Jacks.
SCARBOROUGH: And also another podcast called WTF. With a liberal L.A. Comedian. But hasn't sat down with the Washington Post in seven and a half years but we really should hold ourselves to a higher standard.
BRZEZINSKI: And while taking some responsibility for the divisive culture in American politics he also called on media companies to invest back into the public good and, quote, “not dumb down the news.”
Some in the press corps were less than impressed. Mark Knoller of CBS News tweeted ““You are supposed to push power for more access,” says President Obama, even though the White House doesn't always provide it.” Sam Stein of the Huffington Post tweeted “After this barnburner from Obama on the responsibilities of robust press coverage, I'm eager to see the spike in on the record White House briefings.” And Callum Borchers of the Washington Post tweeted, “Obama is right about a ‘balkanized’ media problem. But he contributed to it.” And I think you were alluding to that, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, yeah. I mean, the president -- that column, Jim Vandehei yesterday accurately talked about the hypocrisy of the president complaining about the balkanized treatment when he himself went, more times than not, to those who would provide him the easiest, easiest questions and he would be speaking to his audience directly.
JIM VANDEHEI: Well, I think it goes to his comment about false equivalency. I think his definition of that would be not giving more weight to his position. And I think, therefore he goes to friendly media outlets and does avoids tough scrutiny. And also I think, one of the big critics you'll hear from investigative reporters at Politico and other organizations is the lack of transparency in the FOIA process. And other instruments that government can do.
So there is no doubt reporters can always do a better job of scrutinizing and explaining. And I also I'll say that White Houses can do a better job in being able to offer transparency on their end. And any reporter who has dealt with this White House would say it's as frustrating if not more frustrating than dealing with the Bush Presidency.
SCARBOROUGH: Extraordinarily frustrating isn’t it?