The Washington Post

Carney refers questions to HHS — 10 times

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continuously referred reporters' questions on the Obamacare web site to the Department of Health and Human Services. (The Washington Post)

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday repeatedly referred reporters asking questions about the Obamacare rollout to the Department of Health and Human Services — a practice that left journalists frustrated.

Journalists repeatedly asked Carney questions about how the Obamacare exchanges website was being fixed. By the end of the briefing, Carney had referred questions to HHS at least 10 separate times, according to a transcript.

Toward the end of the briefing, a reporter asked Carney whether HHS would actually answer the questions reporters were seeking answers to. Reporters have been frustrated by the lack of specific and timely responses from HHS.

Carney responded by again referring questions to HHS.

"The Web site that is of considerable focus, understandably, is run by HHS and (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)," Carney said. "They have a team in place that's working on it. They have brought in individuals as part of this tech surge to help them deal with the problems on the Web site. So they are the people best situated to answer their — you know, questions that you have. I would refer you to them about what questions they can answer or they're able to answer."

It's not unusual for a White House press secretary to repeatedly refer questions elsewhere. As Olivier Knox notes, former Bush administration press secretary Ari Fleischer was quite adept at it.

Update 5:08 p.m.: The end of the briefing (clipped by the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform) shows the frustration on the part of the White House press corps. One reporter asks Carney why he doesn't have a representative from HHS attend a briefing.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



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