Thursday, July 02, 2009

Obama Faces the Wrath of Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas is an institution in Washington politics. She has been attending White House press conferences for UPI since the mid part of the twentieth century. And she is not a woman to get on the wrong side of. President Obama seems to have done that, according to THIS story on the National Review Corner. She accuses him of trying to manage the media and control it in a way that Richard Nixon never did. Clearly Obama has been attending the same school of media management as New Labour...

Following a testy exchange during today’s briefing with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas told CNSNews.com that not even Richard Nixon tried to control the press the way President Obama is trying to control the press.

“Nixon didn’t try to do that,” Thomas said. “They couldn’t control (the media). They didn’t try.

“What the hell do they think we are, puppets?” Thomas said. “They’re supposed to stay out of our business. They are our public servants. We pay them.”

Thomas said she was especially concerned about the arrangement between the Obama Administration and a writer from the liberal Huffington Post Web site. The writer was invited by the White House to President Obama’s press conference last week on the understanding that he would ask Obama a question about Iran from among questions that had been sent to him by people in Iran.

“When you call the reporter the night before you know damn well what they are going to ask to control you,” Thomas said.

“I’m not saying there has never been managed news before, but this is carried to fare-thee-well—for the town halls, for the press conferences,” she said. “It’s blatant. They don’t give a damn if you know it or not. They ought to be hanging their heads in shame.”

54 comments:

Newmania said...

Never trusted Obama , always thought you were wrong not to support the Republicans.What do we see , weak internationally , protectionist and generally full of it .

Just as I thought

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

Beware for this is "old media" fury that one of its most hallowed bastions of privilege being assaulted by the internet parvenus. That aid is coming from the White House means the battle is lost for them, hence the ire.

PhilC said...

Nixon tapped reporters' phone lines and talked about firebombing the Washington Post.
George W Bush's administration paid for fake news clips which were then sent to local TV stations and run as genuine news stories.
Obama, apparently, has a friendly question planted. It hardly bears comparison.
And since 99% of your readers have no idea who Helen Thomas is whether she is riled or not is meaningless.
If you are doing foreign affairs why not comment on today's Amnesty International report about the invasion of Gaza? You ran a number of posts at the time of the conflict and it might be useful to compare Amnesty's findings from the ground with your own analysis from, er, Kent.

Anonymous said...

Then, can I suggest that she writes her articles in such a way as to put a bad light on Obama.

At the end of the day, she rules her own roost. These politicians need the press more than the press need politicians.

She has the answers in her own hands. She simply forgets it. Or would it be that her job is more important than her morals?

Neil M said...

Fancy that,eh ?

A senior political figure using planted questions in order to make their answers look good.

It would never happen over here...

Jonathan Cook said...

Obama appears to be a complete novice at news management and media control.

He has sooooooooooo many of the dark arts yet to learn from New Labour.

T England said...

Obama IS new Labour, that's why some of us said he would turn America into the socialist states of America.
He will be a repeat performance of new Labour & will probably shaft America like how Labour have shafted us.
Labour love to control the MSM because it helps them with their lefty delusions, I take it Obama will be no different there as well.

HAHA America, that's what they get for voting for a lefty.

Stevo Bevo said...

Isn't this the same raddled old crone who refers to Al Qaeda as "so-called terrorists"?

Plato said...

She's just peeved that the Huffy got in there before she did.

Journalists moaning about news management - ahhahahahaha

strapworld said...

We will rue the day Obama became President, especially if Pakistan falls, as it quite easily could, to the taliban.

If those fundamantalist idiots get hold of the nuclear option we will be facing a goodnight Vienna
scenario.

Obama will then prove that he is not the answer! He is the USofA's Blair a weak man dressed as the superman he aint.

Anonymous said...

>And since 99% of your readers have no idea who Helen Thomas is whether she is riled or not is meaningless.

Only to those who take pride in flaunting their ignorance. 'America's crazy old aunt in the attic,' as the greta James Taranto calls her, is well worth study by anyone who wants to know about bias in the American media.

Anonymous said...

>he greta James Taranto

Sorry, I meant 'the Garbo James Taranto,' obviously!

londonmuslim said...

Time Helen Thomas went to an insititution

Anonymous said...

Now Helen Thomas is a hero because she criticises Obama.

When she stood up to Bush, she was dismissed on the British right-wing blogosphere (who take their talking points from sites like FreeRepublic and RedState) as the Wicked Witch of the West, an evil anti-American, anti-liberty, anti-Western liberal hag who thought herself the Queen of the White House Press Corps.

For bloggers, consistentcy really is just something that happens to other people, isn't it?

Nigel said...

Whatever you think of the general accusation, this is bullshit (probably mixed with sour grapes):

"... Thomas said she was especially concerned about the arrangement between the Obama Administration and a writer from the liberal Huffington Post Web site. The writer was invited by the White House to President Obama’s press conference last week on the understanding that he would ask Obama a question about Iran from among questions that had been sent to him by people in Iran ..."

The question asked was one of the more awkward ones of the press conference from Obama's point of view.
It is the 'professional' White House press corps - who have been whingeing about this en masse - who are, for the most part, pathetically subservient to whoever happens to be occupying the Presidency.

A little like our own Parliamentary Lobby.

Anonymous said...

Think that's bad? Checj out this story from Politico:

For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post is offering lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to "those powerful few" — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and the paper’s own reporters and editors.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0709/24441.html#ixzz0K6rzSqHp&C

Anonymous said...

That should be Check.

Nigel said...

>>...pathetically subservient White House press corps...<<

I ought to have pointed out that Helen Thomas is usually an honourable exception to that.

Morus said...

I have a great deal of respect for Helen Thomas, but she's badly wrong on this one.

Nico Pitney is a brilliant blogger - I got to meet him briefly in Denver for the Democratic Convention, and he is articulate, bright and speaks his mind.

He wasn't "given a question to ask" (which I agree would be unacceptable complicity) - rather, he got a call from the White House saying that if he had questions from Iranians who were contacting Huffington Post, he might be called upon to relay one of those questions to the President.

He put out a further appeal for questions, and received responses from Iran - he was then invited by Obama to ask the second question, with the preamble of "I know you have some questions from Iranian citizens".

If this was media manipulation, Obama would not have given the preamble in the press conference - he just would have called on Nico. There was no secret collusion - there was an attempt to do something different: to invite the questions of non-journalists (in this case from Iran) to be answered (and it must be said, dodged) by the POTUS.

This is about old media jealousy that a mere blogger from HuffPo (which at about 25 million hits per month - on a par with Guardian, Times, or Telegraph online - perhaps deserves a question or two at a press conference) got to ask the 2nd question.

The old media should be asking themselves "why did HuffPo get to do it, and not us?" - the answer is that Nico had spent three weeks writing in depth on Iran, was spending half his time on Farsi language websites, and had thousands of Iranian readers getting in contact.

The MSM got to the Iran story three or four days late, and never invested the time and effort in doing more than reading the Twitter feeds and reporting each others' reporting. Nico did more than that, which is why he was chosen as the conduit for a good question that the President then ducked.

Scot Richards said...

Helen Thomas is probably the last legacy of a 'free press' left anywhere in the so-called 'free-world'. Over the years I've been split between being on her side and being against her position. But I always respect her - in very very stark contrast to Helen Thomas Wannabee Polly Toynbee (fake fake fake).

Oh, how I wish the UK had a Helen Thomas.

Thomas Rossetti said...

I am absolutely delighted to see that the media is finally realising that Obama is not the chosen one, he doesn't walk on water, and he's not going to solve all of America's problems. He's just a politician with an agenda, like everyone else in Washington.

In case people in England think we're exaggerating about the MSM's love of Obama (I am an Englishman who lives in Washington DC, by the way), I would refer you to an episode of "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC last week. In it Chris Matthews (a self-confessed Obamaphile) and his women guests all spent their time talking about their favourties traits of the current President ("He's so caring", "He's so unflappable" etc.). What hard-hitting journalism that is!

Obviously, I don't want my adopted country to fail (in the way the country of my birth has) but it is rather wonderful to see all these holier-than-thou left-wingers finally realise that Obama isn't the man they thought he was. It's as if someone's come along and put a pin in their balloon.

Pete Wass said...

Is PhilC a pseudonym for Gordon Brown. Not only is it wrong for you to criticise the one, supported by smears on Republicans, but he also tells you what you should be writing about. Exactly the tactics Brown uses at every PMQs.

Anonymous said...

"Obama, apparently, has a friendly question planted. It hardly bears comparison."

It's not just that, Phool. Obamedia collusion is endemic. You'd notice that if you were paying attention.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I'm not the only person who is going to keep saying this : obama is the American equivalent of blair. they and their cohorts are genetically unable to be proper people. they are all fundamentally wicked. as are all socialists. unfortunately, most of them don't realise it; but with blair and obama, they know exactly what they are doing.

john in cheshire

Anonymous said...

I take umbrage at the concept of HuffPo being a "news site" - it's a lefty blog with no journalistic standards, passing as a (relatively) respectable news and current affairs reporting organisation. People in the know give it a wide berth.

golden_balls said...

Interesting news about osbourne I wonder if he will step down while this is being investigated

Paul Canning said...

This is complete bollocks, Iain, and nothing to do with Obama but everything with old media being pissed off.

See The Crucifixion of Nico Pitney in The Atlantic http://politics.theatlantic.com/2009/06/the_crucifixtion_of_nico_pitney.php

Andrew Sullivan has had a word or two to say on this as well http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/inside-the-beltway.html

Thomas would be better aiming her fire at her colleagues failure to ask questions of the quality of her own.

Do you agree with Thomas that it's about Obama or Sullivan that it's about old vs new media? Presumably the former but maybe you haven't heard the other side.

Richard Abbot said...

Obama is not the messiah
He's just a very naughty boy

The sooner the world awakes from its delusion the better. Obama proves one thing and one thing only - that a black guy can screw it up just the same as a white guy.

Of course, some might say we need to see that happen before our very eyes.

VotR said...

OT many apologies, Iain, but

Osborne to be investigated for flipping.

Will Mandy ever give up his designs on Osborne? Laughable.

http://tinyurl.com/lhckv9

Thomas Rossetti said...

In terms of Obama being the new Blair, you are completely right: both nice enough chaps but no substance at all.

People may take issue with Blair being a "nice chap" on the grounds of his behaviour leading up to the Iraq War. I just mean that he and Obama would be pleasant dinner party guests in the way that Margaret Thatcher wouldn't. I know who I'd much rather have leading my country, though. (Thatcher, in case the sense isn't clear!,)

Paul Halsall said...

Amazing - Helen Thomas for years always got the "first question" at White House news conferences. Now the AP always gets first question.

The HuffPo writer asked a good question.

Thomas Rossetti said...

As we're talking about the White House and its press relations, is it relevant to point out what contemptible person Robert Gibbs (White House Press Secretary) is? Here's what he said about the British Press:

“Let’s just say if I wanted to look up, if I wanted to read a write-up of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup [sic], I’d might open up a British newspaper. If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I’m not entirely sure it’d be the first pack of clips I’d pick up.”

Here he is when asked whether Obama would get rid of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of not allowing gays in the military:

"You don't hear politicians give a one-word answer much. But it's 'Yes.'"

And yet here he is when asked about it recently:

"...I said that the President agreed that, and said during the campaign, and agreed with former members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the policy wasn't working for our national interests, that he committed to change that policy, that he's working with the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs on making that happen, and that the only durable way to do that is to go through Congress and that's what the President intends to do."

Being "committed" to changing a policy isn't quite the same as saying you'll change it. Not so easy once you're in power, is it Mr Gibbs?

JuliaM said...

"And since 99% of your readers have no idea who Helen Thomas is whether she is riled or not is meaningless."

I think you'll find anyone interested enough in US politics to read this would know quite well who she is.

And would take issue with Iain's opening statement: "Helen Thomas is an institution in Washington politics."

It should read: 'Helen Thomas SHOULD BE IN an institution...'

tankus said...

she fears for her job and kudos ....

Papers and the cosy politician /reporter give me feed you back me back you relationsship is cracking .. Dan Hanna,16yr old Iranian snuff video and the hairy angel bypassed the reporting agenda ..with an exponential global mass audience ....

She fears her increasing irrelevance and possibly turning into a bitter toynbee .....

irrelevant ,unloved, uniformed, and increasingly unnoticed .

Just for a laugh ..Obamabeach should make her sit at the back

Dimoto said...

PhilC said:
Nixon tapped reporters' phone lines and talked about firebombing the Washington Post.
George W Bush's administration paid for fake news clips which were then sent to local TV stations and run as genuine news stories.
Obama, apparently, has a friendly question planted. It hardly bears comparison.
And since 99% of your readers have no idea who Helen Thomas is whether she is riled or not is meaningless.
If you are doing foreign affairs why not comment on today's Amnesty International report about the invasion of Gaza? You ran a number of posts at the time of the conflict and it might be useful to compare Amnesty's findings from the ground with your own analysis from, er, Kent.

Agree with all of that.
Shame that Iain has missed today's (manufactured) story about Osbourne.
It's patently obvious that Labour is running a full-scale, dirty tricks campaign based on George W's dirty stuff, and probably fronted by the delightful Ed Balls (hope all you Bush/Cheney Neo-Con groupies are happy).

Like Obama, the Tories are innocents in the park.
Can't someone at least stand on his hind legs in the Commons and expose this crap ?

Paul Halsall said...

@Dimoto

I don't see how today's story about Osborne is any more manufactured than all the others.

He seems to have acted a lot more wickedly than, for example Phil Woolas, or even Quentin Hogg.

PhilC said...

Pete Wass: It was the feeble comparison with Nixon I was criticising not criticism of Obama per se.
And I wrote "why not comment" which is hardly telling Iain what to write about.
But yes, Pete, I am Gordon Brown and you can claim your £5 (subject to a £7 answer levy meaning you actually owe me £3. I'll send wee Ed Balls round for the £4 later).

Anonymous said...

You have to be kidding. Where were the Helen Thomases of this world when Bush and Rove were controlling every media outlet in America with their agenda for war?

Sabina said...

Uh-oh, you do NOT want to mess with Helen Thomas!
She's been the bane of every president's existence since Kennedy. She's the only one who has always had the guts to ask the hard questions, and it's been a delight to watch one president after another squirm.
Go get 'em, Helen!

Conservative Cabbie said...

Helen Thomas' anger isn't just a result of the Nico Pitney incident, it's also about the handpicked nature of Obama's healthcare townhall in Virginia yesterday:

From the Washington Post

"The president called randomly on three audience members. All turned out to be members of groups with close ties to his administration: the Service Employees International Union, Health Care for America Now, and Organizing for America, which is a part of the Democratic National Committee. White House officials said that was a coincidence."

He's entitled to do that, he's just not entitled to call his administration the most transparent ever.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you people are getting the real point.

Obama does not control the media, and neither does New Labour.

However; it is plainly, and painfully clear to myself at least, that the same powers that control Obama and New Labour, and much else besides, are most obviously controlling the entire main stream media. To a very much greater or slightly less extent.

Please be reminded that the media can only be controlled if it wishes to be controlled. Therefore we should not watch so much which party, president, or PM, the media seems to support or not the most.

We should very carefully watch which AGENDAS and POLICIES the media supports. Party politics is only an extra means to assist our ruling elites to control virtually everything we think and therefore do.

If we did this, we will find that the media almost entirely supports globalist, corporatist, authoritarian, or should I say FASCIST agendas?

This because the media, very much including The BBC and SKY TV, is TOTALLY owned and controlled by FASCISTS, with only very sightly differing wholly FASCIST ends in mind.

We much desists from the extremely ignorant belief that power ends with the president of The USA.

He is not only NOT the most powerful man in the world. Obama is not even close to being the most powerful man in the WHITE HOUSE. He very possibly is not the most powerful person within his own home. As all married men surly know.

Atlas shrugged

Nigel said...

>>Where were the Helen Thomases of this world when Bush and Rove were controlling every media outlet in America...<<

Maybe she ought to have been asking questions like this ?

"I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war?..."

Or saying stuff like this:

"The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself. All we need is another liar... I think he'd like to run, but it would be a sad day for the country if he does."

Oh, she did.

jihong said...

The administration's behavior just reflects the culture of the high tech generation. We lost our gut for a face to face encounter. We is much easier to be manipulated.

Indeed, "old media" is angry, but sooner or later the "new media" will share the same fury too.

To comment on Cardinal Richelieu's Mole: Helen earned her privilege, she is a journalist with professional ethnics. I wish our "new media" journalists have the same professionalism.

Chrome Diplomat said...

What with currently being in the US I watched the press conference in full on C-Span and also heard the guy from the Huffington Post interviewed about this 'media management'.

The site had been asking readers to send in questions of what they should ask Obama at the news conference and specifically wanted to hear questions from Iranians inside Iran- kind of similar to what you and a lot of other prominent bloggers do when they are interviewing someone except they get to ask Obama rather than Livingstone :-p!

The White House, not surprisingly, has someone reading the Huffington Post, and so found out that they were seeking questions from Iranians. They then told the reporter that he would definitely be called on. According to the reporter himself they never asked to know the actual question nor would he have told them if they did.

Helen Thomas has done some fantastic work at times, but I if she is 'especially concerned' about this the other things she is concerned about must be fairly trivial.

Yak40 said...

PhilC tries to spin it in Obambi's favour but fails.
The MSM is of course running scared of the blogs, hence their ire about the HuffPost getting the planted question, not them

Helen Thomas is now a feature writer (part time I think) so the fact she's even there is a courtesy, and, for once, I agree with her 100%.

At last some in the media are beginning to question the unblinking adoration shown to Obama since, oh, say 1997.

Do Stephanopoulous (ABC "unbiased" analyst, former Clinton Press mouthpiece), Begala (CNN "unbiased" analyst, former Clinton operative) and Rahm Emmanuel (low life and Obama operative) still confer by phone every morning, getting the talking points straight ?

Bambi needs to remember the media can build someone up high, but p*ss them off and they'll delight in your destruction.

Yak40 said...

I meant 2007 of course !

Mitch said...

surprise surprise......blair with a tan and it will end the same way.
A few more years and Bush will be looking good.

labour for the few said...

everything about obama,is new labour.spin,control,overspending,excessive tax.give it time,he will go down as one of the worst presidents of all time.copying new labour would be like if i wanted to become a banker,looking at 'fred the shred' and thinking,great,i will do what he did. that will work?i do wonder,if obama has the same underlying hatred and chippyness for the usa,that blair and brown have for britain.

if i cant have it,they cant have it.

watch this space and remember these words above in 4/6 years time.

LibCync said...

Blimey, a real establishment v. blogger story there.

Two competing forces for you to balance there Iain, your desire to make cheap political comments about the left and the defense of a blogger against the establishment.

Interesting to see which side you came down on!

canvas said...

Helen Wrath is an old school journo. She has her knickers in a twist because she's just realising now how powerful the internet has become.

Time for her to retire...she's out of her depth.

Anonymous said...

I think Nigel has missed the point, just as the Helen Thomases of the world missed the boat when the time cdame to scrutinise the case for war in the run up to the invasion. No use quoting me things she said years later, after the event, too late. Try again, Nige.

Thatsnews said...

HELEN: "hey! I am a journalist! I am important! I make the rules, here!"

You are not important. You do not make the rules.

The old ways are going. And don't suck up to Nixon you silly sod! It makes you look like a fraud.

Amanda said...

I don't think this is a conflict of new media vs. old media, but a real ethical problem of the White House Press Office silencing those who they don't deem worthy by not calling on them. This video has some footage from the press conference and is worth a watch - Obama needs to drop this bull shit and focus on actually getting things done

http://www.newsy.com/videos/watchdogs_to_lapdogs

Hysteria said...

The fact this has now become more apparent is to be welcomed - but I don't really understand why now?

I well remember the first Obama press conferences I watched live and was struck by the list of "called questions" and the use of the teleprompter.

I commented on Coffee House at the time.

Nice to see the MSM finally waking up though!