Ouch. Now, I’m actually a fan of Jon Stewart (I am part of his target audience after all), but Jay Carney’s seemingly offhand comment that Obama’s toughest interview of 2012 was on the Daily Show—that is just shameful. Every reporter and journalist from the traditional mainstream news should just be crying right now. How absolutely pathetic is that?
I don’t even know where to begin. Part of the problem here is that interviewers from traditional news regularly softball Obama. They are and have been so enamored with him that they refuse to ask tough questions in any kind of a dogged manner. But the other problem is that the Obama administration controls interviews more precisely and more obsessively than pretty much any administration since Tricky Dicky.
In fact, the Committee to Protect Journalists, which does almost the entirety of its work in other countries, released its first ever report on the state of American journalism in 2013. According to Democracy Now!:
. . . [Let’s look at] the first report on press freedom in the United States ever published by the Committee to Protect Journalists, which usually advocates for press freedoms overseas—and the news isn’t good. Titled “The Obama Administration and the Press,” the report looks at the many ways President Obama has ushered in a paralyzing climate of fear for both reporters and their sources. Among the cases it details, six government employees, plus two contractors, including Edward Snowden, have faced felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act for leaking classified information to the press, compared with just three prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations.
The Obama administration has notably used social media, videos, and its own sophisticated websites to provide the public with administration-generated information about its activities, along with considerable government data useful for consumers and businesses. However, with some exceptions, such as putting the White House visitors’ logs on the whitehouse.gov website and selected declassified documents on the new U.S. Intelligence Community website, it discloses too little of the information most needed by the press and public to hold the administration accountable for its policies and actions.
And there is no real way to get this information because, as the report states:
“This is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered,” said David E. Sanger, veteran chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times.
So it is no real surprise that Jon Stewart was Obama’s most difficult interview of 2012. Because Obama makes it almost impossible for traditional journalists to get access to him. When they do get access, their questions are manicured and massaged into harmlessness, or just brick-walled “for security reasons.” Obama’s preferred means of communication is through “entertainment news.” He probably thought Jon Stewart would be a walk in the park. He likely wasn’t prepared for the fact that Jon Stewart actually has a brain, a healthy grasp of reality, a quick wit, and a no-holds-barred kind of tenacity that makes him a good interviewer.
But honestly, this is pathetic. Are you hearing this, journalists? Jay Carney basically said you guys are a bunch of clowns. So take off the rose-colored glasses. Put down your cup of kool-aid. And actually do your job.