Bob Woodward’s spat with Gene Sperling led to political reporters describing their fights with a touchy, salty White House, even as press secretary Jay Carney has gotten snappy in the press briefing with a few different women.
“I had a young reporter asking tough, important questions of an Obama Cabinet secretary,” the New York Post quotes “one DC veteran” as saying. “She was doing her job, and they were trying to bully her. In an e-mail, they called her the vilest names — bitch, c–t, a–hole.” He complained and was told the matter would be investigated: “They were hemming and hawing, saying, ‘We’ll look into it.’ Nothing happened.”
On the record, Carney himself can be less than polite. He shocked the press corps last month by slamming a reporter after she observed that the White House proposed the sequester.
“Well, we’ve been through this a lot – I know you’re filling in — but here’s the fundamental fact,” Carney said two weeks ago. “During the deficit reduction of the debt ceiling negotiations, because the Republicans refused to embrace balance, refused in the end to join hands with the President and pursue a grand bargain, there was an absolute necessity to avoid default, and both sides were looking for trigger mechanisms — this is complicated budget-speak — to help make this package possible.” Carney has since acknowledged that the White House did, in fact, come up with the sequester.
In January, he mocked CNN’s Jessica Yellin for asking why Obama doesn’t “go up there” to engage with Congress more often.
“Because there is such a long history of Presidents going up there?” Carney responded. “I think that’s in a television program . . . ‘West Wing’ — you know. Anyway, go ahead.” Yellin replied, “I’m not going to indulge your West Wing fantasies.”
Carney also suggested that CBS’s Sheryl Atkinson wasn’t being a “tough” reporter because she described a White House official “yelling and screaming” at her.
“First of all, I have no insight into the conversations she may or may not have had,” Carney said. “Second of all, I know that you guys are all hard-bitten, veteran journalists and probably don’t complain when you have tough conversations with your sources sometimes . . . what I think is that I know you are tough enough to handle an extra decibel or two in a phone conversation. I’m not sure that that happened here, but it’s a surprising complaint.”
It might be easier for Jay Carney to explain such comments as appropriately-tough exchanges if President Obama and national Democrats hadn’t pushed a “war on women” canard throughout the last election.
Carney is a former White House reporter. His wife is Claire Shipman, a senior national correspondent for ABC.