In Print, NY Times Downplays Its Own 'Enchanting' Question, Fails to Disclose Zeleny's Authorship

April 30th, 2009 1:55 PM

At President Obama’s 100-day press conference on Wednesday night, White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny became a mini-celebrity – or a national laughingstock – for asking President Obama how he was surprised/troubled/enchanted/humbled over the first 100 days. The Times itself seemed embarrassed by the question. The press conference was relegated to page A-19, with the headline "Obama Voices Concern on Pakistan and Defends Interrogation Memo Release." Nine paragraphs in, Zeleny and Helene Cooper acknowledged the "light moments," but don’t acknowledge they were a gift from Zeleny and the Times:

There were a few light moments, particularly when Mr. Obama was asked what has surprised, troubled, enchanted and humbled him in the past 100 days. "Wait, let me get this all down," he said, taking out a pen.

Why the passive "mistakes were made" phrasing? Then Zeleny and Cooper provided all the president's answers to the multi-part softball, including: "He called himself enchanted by American servicemen and women, and their sacrifices they make, although he allowed that ‘enchanted’ might not be the exact characterization."

The story briefly mentioned Obama's town hall meeting in Missouri, but ignored his mockery of the protesters with the tea bags and the networks that don’t like him very much.

This was Zeleny's question: "During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office, enchanted you the most about serving in this office, humbled you the most and troubled you the most?" This is not a question one would associate with a Gray Lady, a prestigious daily. It sounds more like an question from Access Hollywood.

On The Caucus blog, political reporter Adam Nagourney collegially declared Zeleny’s puffball his favorite question of the night when the press conference was over:

Besides my favorite question – yes, the enchanting one from Jeff – the president was discursive on torture, offered his medical counsel to a country worried about the flu, was reflective about the political meaning of Senator Specter’s defection, and lent his view of the dramatic expansion of government on his watch. That said, he did not make any jaw-dropping news, which was probably his intention. He also didn’t make any obvious mistakes, and for this president, no surprise there. He was also more lively and engaging than he was at the previous news conference.

Blogger Michelle Malkin gave Zeleny her Drool Bucket of the Day award:

He could have, I dunno, pressed Obama for details about how and why his administration spooked and freaked out countless New Yorkers this week for the sake of an alleged photo op update.

But no, New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny decided he was going to be Perry Como and sing "Some Enchanted Evening."

Which makes sense, of course, given the New York Times’ $2 million financial stake in hawking Obama-themed merchandise.