The White House pushed back Tuesday against complaints from the press corps that the administration was too restrictive last weekend in denying reporters and photographers a glimpse of President Obama playing golf with Tiger Woods during his vacation in Florida.
Press secretary Jay Carney said he sympathizes with the press corps’ bid for greater access, but he disputed suggestions that Obama has been more off-limits than his recent predecessors.
Carney said Obama has held 35 news conferences in which reporters were permitted to ask questions, compared to 19 by George W. Bush to this point in his presidency. And Obama has granted 591 interviews, including 104 with television networks, Carney added.
Some White House reporters have complained that Obama has bypassed the largest newspapers in favor of television and niche publications toward which he is aiming a specific message or expects less serious questions.
“I doubt that there's ever been a White House Press corps that's ever been wholly satisfied with the level of access that they've been afforded,” said Carney, a former White House reporter for Time magazine. “When I came to this room in the spring of 1993, the White House press corps, as those of you who were here remember, was in a state of rebellion over the situation here in terms of press relations. This is not uncommon. I certainly don't think we have that here.”
Carney reiterated the administration’s position that Obama was spending personal vacation time at a private hotel and did not leave the compound during his Sunday golf outing with Woods in Palm City, Fla. Reporters traveling with the president in the press pool had gathered in anticipation of potential access, but White House aides told them to disband because there would be no movement off the compound.
Later that afternoon, the White House confirmed that Woods was among Obama’s foursome after a reporter for Golf World Magazine and the Golf Channel had published the news on his Twitter feed hours earlier.
After several reporters, including Fox News correspondent Ed Henry, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, complained about the lack of access, Obama spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One on Monday evening on the way back to Washington. But that conversation was off the record.
“On this issue of weekend, I mean, the president had some down time. He was playing golf,” Carney said. “We did provide you the first official confirmation of that. ... We don't control everybody who's around and purporting to be reporting on the event, but nobody, no reporter had any access that was different from the White House press corps on that matter.”