Buzzfeed reporter Michael Hastings shares his curious relationship with the White House Press Corps in his new campaign e-book, “Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama’s Final Campaign.”
Hastings reveals that a reporter’s life on the trail is monotonous and difficult, save for a few sweet unscripted but always off-the-record moments.
One of those off-the-record moments was an event where President Obama joined reporters for drinks while the campaign was in Orlando, Fla., an event that Hastings partially details in the book.
“The behavior of the assembled press corps was telling. Everyone, myself included, swooned. Swooned! Head over heels. One or two might have even lost their minds,” Hastings writes, as each reporter had a chance to speak personally with the president. “We were all, on some level, deeply obsessed with Obama, crushing hard, still a little love there. This was nerd heaven, a politico’s paradise, the subject himself moving among us — shaking our hands, slapping our shoulders!”
Hastings reveals that the president spent “over an hour” with reporters who later stayed up late buzz over every detail of the evening.
“Did this inform our reporting, did seeing the man in the flesh, in a somewhat staged and casual setting, provide new, deep, and lasting insights?” asks a reflective Hastings in his book. “Yes, I would say, but again, I’m not at liberty to share.”
Later, Hastings detailed campaign journalists’ jealous protection over the details, as members quickly reminded him that the event was “off-the-record.”
Much to the ire of his fellow reporters, Hastings revealed that the event occurred – a month later.
Even though the event itself was off-the-record, Hastings argued, the press corps had a duty to report that the event occurred, adding that the behavior of his fellow reporters, wasn’t necessarily off the record either.
Naturally, Hastings was chastised by many of his campaign colleagues for revealing some of the precious details of the event.
“The fear was that the White House would collectively punish all of us by revoking the already limited access or, worse, Obama might never come down and hang out with us again,” Hastings writes.
Campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki, Hastings notes, was furious and angrily phoned his editor Ben Smith for publishing details of the event. In response, the Obama campaign banished him from the campaign plane for a week.