WASHINGTON — White House officials phoned a blogger from a popular left-leaning website Monday to tell him that President Obama had been impressed with his online reporting about Iran. Could the writer pass along a question from an Iranian during the news conference Tuesday?
The next day, the Huffington Post's Nico Pitney, the website's national editor, was the second reporter Obama picked for a question.
"Nico . . . all across the Internet, we've been seeing a lot of reports coming directly out of Iran," Obama said. "I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?"
White House officials and Pitney dismissed suggestions that the question was a plant. Obama didn't know the question Pitney was going to ask, they say, and officials didn't pre-approve the question.
The person in Iran asked Obama whether dealing with Tehran after the crackdown wouldn't be a betrayal of the demonstrators.
Obama replied that there are "significant questions about the legitimacy of the election," but that the U.S. could not judge its outcome.
Officials say they wanted to highlight the role of the Internet in the protests as well as reach out directly to Iranians.