In Round of Exit Interviews, Jay Carney Denies the Fact That Obama's More Secretive Than Bush

July 6th, 2014 11:08 PM

Jay Carney is doing a round of interviews fresh out of the White House. In The New York Times Magazine, Jim Rutenberg threw briefing-room softballs like this: “Do people in the first row like to showboat?”

Carney said yes: “If you look at the difference in tenor between the on-camera briefings and the on-the-record-but-off-camera gaggles, it’s night and day.” That’s not just due to the TV audience, it’s due to the idea that gaggles are more designed to set up the briefing and the day’s coverage. In this and other interviews, Carney tries sneakily to dismiss the idea that Obama didn’t live up to hise pledge to be transparent.

Rutenberg asked: “One serious accusation that has come up throughout your tenure is that this is an Orwellian administration, the most secretive ever.” The Times vet couldn’t say he was borrowing from his former executive editor Jill Abramson or reporter David Sanger, who insisted they were worse than Bush.

Read how Carney slips the question, insisting that all administrations are the same: “ I know -- because I covered them -- that this was said of Clinton and Bush, and it will probably be said of the next White House. I think a little perspective is useful. What I really reject -- and would have rejected as a reporter covering this place -- is this notion that whether a reporter is successfully doing his job depends on information he is being handed through the front door from the White House."

Carney played this same spin game in an NPR All Things Considered interview on June 27. Co-host Audie Cornish also failed to bring up Abramson’s charge that Obama is worse than Bush.

CORNISH: As you've described, your time is marked by this rise of social media in the news business. The flipside has been that the White House has been criticized for bypassing the press altogether. For example, limiting coverage of certain events and then putting out photography and video, or the way it targets interviews to certain organizations. In this day and age, does the White House need the White House press corps?

CARNEY: Absolutely. But it would be absolute malpractice for President Obama's team not to take advantage of the social media that's out there that everybody else is taking advantage of and to reach people where they are. If folks aren't watching the evening news in the numbers they used to watch it, which is definitively true, and they're getting their information in different ways, you know, you need to reach them there. And that's what we tried to do.

CORNISH: But to get back to this - this other point also - this idea of the White House being accused of bypassing the press altogether, the idea of releasing your own materials and how that undermines the ability of the press to give independent monitoring and coverage of the president's activities.

CARNEY: Well, I would say a couple of things. The president's chief photographer's pieces - he was also photographer for President Reagan. There is nothing that we do, or we did, that is different from what the Reagan White House, save for the means of distribution.

CORNISH: But the limiting of coverage as well? I mean, that is the complaint.

CARNEY: Well, I'm just - I just - you know, I obviously - it was the case when I was a White House reporter, and will always be the case that there's a demand for more coverage, more access. And, you know, I don't think that's any different now than it was in the past. What's different is in the old days when the photo office would want to put a photo from the White House, they would distribute it to the news organizations and they decided whether or not the American people got to see it.