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White House to press: Don’t ask us about false statements cabinet secretaries make during press briefings

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke

Two members of President Obama’s cabinet have made false or unsupported statements while describing for the White House press corps the effect of sequestration, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney doesn’t think he should be asked about those erroneous claims.

“I don’t have any more for you on it,” Carney said today when asked about Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s demonstrably false claim that pink slips are already going out to teachers because of the sequester cuts. “I encourage you to make phone calls in an old fashioned reporting [manner] . . . for more information about that, you should go to the Department of Education.”

Carney refused to concede that Duncan had made a false statement. “I haven’t independently looked into them,” he said. Duncan told reporters yesterday that “There are a couple districts — one I know of in West Virginia that has actually already issued notices, but it’s just because they have an earlier notification date,” before he acknowledged that “Whether it’s all sequester related, I don’t know.  But these are teachers who are getting pink slips now.”

The local school district debunked Duncan’s claim. “The major impact is not so much sequestration,” Kanawha County public schools Pam Padon told The Washington Post. “Those five or six jobs would already be gone regardless of sequestration.”

Carney was also confronted about Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicting that flights would be delayed by 90 minutes. Federal Aviation Administration head Michael Huerta conceded yesterday during a House hearing that “can’t tell you with precision that it would be 90 minutes every day.”

“I don’t know that the Secretary of Transportation was giving you an absolute target minute,” he demurred.

But Carney defended the administration’s treatment of reporters. “I think the president expects us to fully explain his policies, to answer questions about his positions, and to make clear when we believe factual errors are being stated,” he said.

 

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