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Obama campaign defends selective press availability

August 19, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • President Obama wipes sweat from his forehead while speaking to supporters during a campaign stop in Windham, N.H.
President Obama wipes sweat from his forehead while speaking to supporters… (Winslow Townson / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- Are all interviews created equal? Amid growing criticism about President Obama’s infrequent press conferences, campaign surrogates came out Sunday to defend a recent spate of softball interviews, equating CNN with “Entertainment Tonight” in the process.

Central to the complaints about Obama’s scheduling has been his reluctance to hold a press conference at the White House since June 8, when his remarks about the private sector “doing fine” set off a flurry of Republican attacks.

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs took to “Fox News Sunday” to defend Obama, citing 13 local television and 11 radio interviews, along with five roundtable interviews with print journalists.

“The White House press corps have good questions but so do local TV stations in Iowa, Colorado and Ohio…. The notion that this president isn’t doing interviews is ridiculous,” he said.

Deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” echoed Gibbs.

“You know, the president was talking to reporters on the ground in Iowa. Do you think that they’re less important than talking to somebody like you?” she asked substitute host Jim Acosta.

Acosta replied by asking Cutter whether Obama’s interviews with “Entertainment Tonight” and People magazine were on the same level as a formal press conference.

“I don’t think that they’re more important. But I think they’re equally important,” Cutter said. “I think that’s where a lot of Americans get their news. And I think the president’s going to continue doing that.”

The list of revelations unearthed by those recent interviews includes Obama’s preferred workout music (Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”), his most-desired superpower (the ability to speak any language) and if his campaign bus is comfortable (“Yes.”). Still, politicians of every stripe regularly use such interviews to reach voters who aren’t hanging on the reports of White House correspondents.

The GOP has sought to capitalize on the issue, releasing an online ad Friday attacking Obama with an interview he held with KOBFM in New Mexico, after which a host declared: “I just flirted with the president of the United States of America.”

Cutter also swung at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his own handling of the press.

“Mitt Romney might have had two media availabilities [in the past week] but what did he tell you in those media availabilities?” she asked. “He told you he wasn't going to release his taxes because he was afraid of getting attacked. And then he spouted off lies about the president's Medicare system. So do you find that media availability really useful, if he's not being transparent about his own policies and distorting the president?”

“Well, Stephanie, I'm going to take a pass on answering your question and say that we're out of time,” Acosta replied.

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