White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has denied a report that the White House sometimes knows in advance the questions reporters will ask during press meetings. The report/accusation was made by Phoenix reporter Catherine Anaya:
Phoenix news anchor Catherine Anaya reported Wednesday night on KPHO-TV5 that in an “off the record” meeting, Carney had told a handful of local TV reporters that White House correspondents often tell him before daily briefings what they’ll be asking.
I don’t think Anaya knew how significant that was. In fact, it seems she considered this reality a necessity. After Carney denied (of course) that he received questions in advance, Anaya withdrew her claim, saying she was mistaken. But listen to the first paragraph of the explanation KPHO released and then retracted in the course of a day:
I did not take notes during our coffee with Jay Carney because it was off the record. But when I referenced the meeting in my live reports I did say that it was a great opportunity to talk about the challenges of his day and how he has to be so well-versed on many topics each day.
In my live report I also wanted to share my impression of my experience in getting a question answered during the briefing. I was indeed asked to provide my question in advance.
This indicates that, as far as Anaya was concerned, it was reasonable for Carney to know the questions in advance—“because he has to be so well-versed on many topics each day.” How in the world would Carney have answers for all the questions reporters might ask him, if he didn’t know about them beforehand?
Well, though Anaya might recognize this necessity from a pragmatic viewpoint, Carney recognized just how damaging this admission could be for a President already accused regularly of over-controlling his media interaction in order to manipulate what information is released to the public.
I believe that Anaya told the truth. It doesn’t look good, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. And I love how she keeps putting her foot in her mouth:
Anaya: The White House gets questions beforehand so they can prepare answers. You know. No big deal.
Carney: No. That is a big deal. And no, of course we don’t. I wish! Heh heh. Move along now.
Anaya: Oh, right. [wink wink] I was mistaken. Soooooooo wrong. They don’t get questions in general. They just got one from me. But how else would Carney be so well-versed on the topics of the day, you know? It’s totally reasonable. He’s such a busy guy. And so dreamy…
Carney: No. That’s not true. Just be quiet now. Wait. Did you publish that on KPHO?
Anaya: Yeah. I was just trying to explain things, you know. I don’t want you to get in trouble. I really appreciate getting to talk to you over coffee. Is that number you gave me your personal number?
Carney: No. You are so… [sigh]. [whispering] Hello, Jim? Get me KPHO on the phone. We’ve got another situation.