Happy Monday, my Banterrific friends, and welcome to a special belated St. Patrick’s Day edition of our White House Members Only column. This week, we’ll take a look at two days in the life of the White House press corps, one of which includes everyone’s favorite green-tinted holiday (at least, until April 20th). Since I shot so much video this week (because you good folks are always on my mind), I’m going to break it up a little this time.
Things got off to a rough start on Monday, as Press Secretary Josh Earnest didn’t call on me during the briefing, and I couldn’t get a meeting with him afterward. This can be very alarming for a reporter from a small outlet like ours, because you never know when you’re in the dog house, or why, or for how long. It also put me in a rough spot because I had two really good questions for Earnest, but no way to make use of them.
One of the things I’ve learned about this job is that the better your question is, the less you should ever consider sending it to the press shop via email, because there’s about a 70/30 chance they won’t want to answer it, and will then skip you in the next several briefings just in case you might ask it again. It doesn’t even have to be a super-adversarial question, just one that they don’t want to answer, that no one else has thought of.
The same is true of taking your question off-air to other White House sources (for the same reason; your question gets kicked up the stairs and you get skipped), which I did on Monday anyway. As expected, I got nothing, but this was one of those rare times when it wound up paying off (more on that later).
Here’s some of the video I shot on Monday, March 16, including my entry to the White House, and a little timed experiment I performed on Josh Earnest. Briefings usually begin anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour after they’re actually scheduled to start, but we also get a “2 minute warning” over the intercom when it’s really about to begin. Under Gibbs and Carney, even that two minutes usually stretched to ten or more, so I wanted to see how Earnest would do.
There was also a stakeout on Monday following the president’s meeting with the Council of the Great City Schools Leadership, which also featured Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. It’s lengthy, but I’m including it to give you a sense of what the job is like. Fred Lucas from The Blaze and April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks pitched in heavily during the question period, giving a great example of how to try and squeeze news out of an event like this:
All of my buddies were kicking me later when I told them that I’d been tempted to ask Duncan if he had a personal email as well as a dot-gov, but had decided it’d be cheap. I’m actually not above cheap, but all those super-sincere school superintendents kind of worked at my conscience, so I didn’t do it.
James Rosen from Fox News was at Monday’s briefing, which was awkward. I went at him pretty hard over his conduct with leaker Stephen Jin-Woo Kim for a number of very good reasons, not the least of which was his solicitation of security leaks from Kim in order to, and this is a direct quote, “force the administration’s hand to go in the right direction, if possible.”
There are many things in a reporter’s job description, but manipulating foreign policy isn’t supposed to be one of them. That’s Tom Cotton’s job. After the briefing, I headed down to the Fox News booth to confront Rosen about the quote (as I had on Twitter several times), but Kevin Corke was in there, too, and I didn’t want to make it awkward for him.
There are reporters at Fox News who want to do a good job, and people like Rosen undermine that. It does not go unnoticed by other reporters. More on that later, too.
After the briefing, and a quick trip to feed the meter, I tried to get something on the two questions I’d planned to ask Monday, as well as some deep background on another couple of subjects. I was surprised that no one had asked about John Kerry’s remark that the “47 traitors” letter was unconstitutional, but not surprised that none of my sources wanted to weigh in on it. They didn’t go near the Logan Act question, either. I did manage to get a little something on my second question, but not enough to make a story.
Then, I headed to RT America to do The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann. I didn’t want to risk decades in a gulag, so there’s no behind-the-scenes footage, but here’s video of my segment with Thom:
Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day, when a disturbingly large number of my colleagues failed to wear green, and the President met with Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny. In honor of the day, I asked The Daily Caller’s Irish ex-pat Neil Munro to wish all of you a Happy St. Paddy’s Day, and he went a step beyond that, telling a story about his own past encounter with the Irish PM. When you listen to this story, keep in mind that Munro is world famous for heckling President Obama in the middle of a Rose Garden announcement:
Kenny did a stakeout after the meeting, some of which I enhanced and published last week, but here’s the full, unedited, unretouched video of Kenny whispering to us over helicopter noises for six minutes:
Here’s a collection of other video from Tuesday, including another two-minute drill for Earnest, a surprise appearance by Bo Obama, and another look at the ESPN entourage that was brought in to tape the president’s March Madness bracket (you can see all of this week’s pictures here):
At Tuesday’s briefing, the legwork I did on Monday surprisingly paid off. Sometimes, when a question filters up the chain, it makes it into the prep meetings and/or the briefing book, which was the case with the two questions I got nothing for on Monday. Earnest was ready with replies to each, sidestepping the legal issue with the letter while still taking one more shot at the Republicans, and shooting down a poorly-sourced FoxNews.com story.
There’s an interesting sidenote on that second question. Fox News sent a different fill-in for Ed Henry on Tuesday, a guy I had never met before and didn’t recognize. When I asked Earnest the question about that Fox News report, the guy’s head whipped around, and he shot me a look. I wanted to know his name so I could recount the tale, so even though I fully expected to get the cold shoulder, I went up to him after the briefing and introduced myself.
“I’m Doug McKelway,” he said, shaking my hand, and to my surprise, he followed up by saying “Thank you for asking that question.”
I’ve written before about how some Fox News reporters (most of them) try to do a good job, and resent it when the network’s news culture undermines them, but I was still taken aback. I’d heard about that FoxNews.com story in the car on the way down Monday, but hadn’t watched the report they ran on air. When I went to write up the question, I discovered that the reporter they had tapped to read off this crummily-sourced story on the air was none other than Doug McKelway.
There have been at least three other times when Fox News reporters have thanked me for highlighting instances like these, where producers, editors, or others have undermined their credibility in different ways. It really does piss them off.
Apparently, though, I still piss Fox News off, because after several weeks of trying to sneak in an interview request under the radar, I regret to inform you all that the special treat I’ve been trying to line up for you, an interview with Kevin Corke, is not going to happen. It seems there is absolutely no one at Fox News PR for whom my infamy doesn’t burn bright. I’ll get into the blacklisting in more detail in some future column, but suffice it to say, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Baier got a talking-to just for tweeting at me. That’s a shame, because the good work that Fox News reporters do should be rewarded. Then, there would be more of it.
Finally, I’d like to let you all know that while I don’t get the time to check comments in all of my stories, I do check back on the Members Only column throughout the week, so if you ever have any feedback for me, this is the best place to leave it (aside from Twitter). Let me know what you like about these columns, what you’d like to see more of, or less of. I can’t promise I’ll do it, but I will listen.