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Me first! At White House briefing, a testy exchange

December 15, 2011|By Peter Nicholas
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster )

A longstanding – if not necessarily beloved – tradition in the White House press briefing room is for the press secretary to take questions first from the network correspondents and wire service reporters who sit in the front row. Folks in the second and third rows wait their turn. From that point on, it’s usually a free-for-all.

But President Obama promised hope and change, you’ll recall, and so Press Secretary Jay Carney is trying to shake things up.

Carney’s practice has been to jump around a bit -- fielding questions from the front row, sure, but also inviting questions from the reporters sitting in the cheap seats.

That practice caused a stir at the briefing on Thursday. ABC’s Jake Tapper was briefly skipped over so that George Condon of the National Journal – a fourth row dweller, mind you -- could ask a question.

Tapper wasn’t pleased.

“Jake, I’ve been doing this for months,’’ Carney explained.

“It’s annoying,’’ Tapper replied.

Carney: “Oh, I’m sorry. Tell it to your colleagues.’’

Tapper asked whether Carney was “going to break with decades of precedent …’’

Carney replied that he was “going to ensure that 49 people in these seats.’’ also get a chance to ask a question.

Then things got weird.

Someone – the transcript doesn’t specify who – said, “OK, then take a question about bestiality, go for it.’’

That was a reference to an exchange earlier in the month between Carney and WorldNetDaily’s Lester Kinsolving, who has no permanent seat in the front or back rows.

Mentioning a defense bill that repealed a ban on sodomy and sex with animals, Kinsolving asked: “Does the commander in chief approve or disapprove of bestiality in our armed forces?’’

Carney quickly moved on – to Tapper.

Tapper invited him to give Kinsolving another question.

“I’ve learned my lesson, Jake,’’ Carney said at that Dec. 5th briefing.

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