On Friday, Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly hosted a discussion with former USA Today White House correspondent Richard Benedetto. Kelly and Benedetto both accused the White House and the press corps of avoiding the tough questions – but their outrage rings hollow.
Kelly opened the segment playing the journalists’ questions to President Barack Obama’s after he addressed the sluggish recovery. In a question to Benedetto, Kelly implied that the media was negligent for not asking the President about the Wisconsin recall election results or the recently revised and disappointing May jobs report.
“Whose responsibility is this? The President’s or the journalists’,” asked Kelly, referring to what she perceives as a deficiency of tough inquiries.
“It’s the journalists’ responsibility,” said Benedetto. I’m flabbergasted by this.”
Kelly went after the President for not calling on Fox News reporter Wendell Goler or ABC’s Jake Tapper to subject himself to tough questions. Benedetto said that the question on national security was tough, but that Obama knew it was coming because he had a prepared response.
But when it comes to identifying partisan reporting, Benedetto has indulged in a little partisanship himself:
He told Politico in May that, while he does not “subscribe to the thesis that reporters and editors are overtly out to get Republicans,” his experience has taught him that most of his colleagues in the media “personally agree with those politicians who espouse Democratic Party philosophies than those who represent the Republican ideology.”
Ideology like, say, a January 2005 piece in USA Today that is little more than a fawning profile of President George W. Bush’s many second term cabinet picks who “came up the hard way.”
Because if coming up the hard way is the measure of an individual’s value, President Obama is worth his weight in Astatine.
But this is not the first time that Benedetto has made this same critique of President Obama’s press coverage:
Obama’s ability to avoid tough questions, skate above the fray and look presidential while his potential successors appear to be futilely flailing is not by accident. It is by White House design, abetted by a press corps that seems content with being shut out by the president and being spoon-fed the message of the day, rather than clamoring for more chances to ask him questions during this critical time.
But it’s demonstrably false. In 2010, MSNBC.com’s “First Read” fact checked the rampant rumor that Obama was simply allergic to press conferences and found that Obama had given more in his first two years in office than any of his predecessors besides Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (37 – 21 joint and 16 solo). They also found that Obama had given more interviews to reporters than any other president in thier first term.
Given the talking point from the right, that Obama is infatuated with his press coverage, it is rather incongruous to simultaneously suggest that he avoids taking questions from journalists.
Benedetto raised one point that is hard to contradict. This question and answer session was probably an attempt by the President to regain control of the media narrative that he had thoroughly lost over the course of this week.
The financial crisis in Europe – ongoing for the better part of two years – did not merit presidential remarks today. That fact is evidenced primarily by the media’s focus on the national security question and Obama’s response.
What further calls Kelly and Benedetto’s criticisms into question is that today’s remarks by Obama were never billed as a press conference in the first place. The President annouced that he would be making remarks on the economy and would be taking “a few questions.” Last I checked, a few is certainly greater than a couple but decidedly less than “a massive pile of.” If this was a full blown presser, Kelly and Benedetto may have had a point — since it was not, they don’t.
Even at the end of a full blown press conference, no president leaves the room to stoic silence. There are always reporters that get the shaft or who have a follow up that they never have the opportunity to ask. This has been the case since there has been a Fourth Estate and will likely always be the case.
Watch the segment below via Fox News Channel:
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