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Opinion: Morning Examiner

Did White House press secretary Josh Earnest just tell the biggest whopper of the Obama era?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,Barack Obama,Press Secretary,Josh Earnest,Transparency,FOIA

Josh Earnest is either the most gullible individual ever to serve as White House press secretary or the least concerned with telling the American people the truth.

In a letter Monday to a coalition of 42 journalism groups and media organizations, Earnest said this:

"The president's commitment to transparency and the crucial role of the independent press is unwavering. The president has set an historically high standard of transparency that is part of the legacy to which future presidents will aspire ..."

Least transparency ever

David Cullier, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, described the Earnest response as “typical spin and response through non-response ... nowhere does the White House address specific concerns about excessive message management and preventing journalists from getting information on behalf of citizens.”

Cullier's group was among the dozens that signed the July 8, 2014, letter to Obama condemning increasing "politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies."

That suppression is enforced by preventing federal employees from talking to journalists without the presence of public information officers or political appointees.

Public not welcome here

"Contact is often blocked completely. When public affairs officers speak, even about routine public matters, they often do so confidentially in spite of having the title 'spokesperson,'" the letter said.

"Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow."

The letter continued, noting that "in prior years, reporters walked the halls of agencies and called staff people at will." But that access was tightened during the Bush administration and has become even more pronounced under Obama.

Both the journalist coalition letter and the Earnest response are well-worth taking the time required to read and compare, particularly in light of Obama's promised transparency on his first day in office.

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Beltway Confidential/T. Becket Adams: When the going in Iraq gets tough, Obama calls on Biden.

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