Monday, October 24, 2011

Did WaPo Get Spurned by WH Press Office?

By Betsy Rothstein on October 24, 2011
This morning’s Keith Koffler casts the White House press office in a dark light as he writes about the “petty treatment” WaPo allegedly received for writing a story they disliked. He says White House press aides all but ensured the pub would get scooped.

Koffler points to a story WaPo published today that says President Obama didn’t fulfill his promises regarding the housing market. As a result, he writes, the press office appeared to give news of a Las Vegas jaunt today to outline borrowers refinance to “chief” WaPo competitors such as WSJ and NYT.

The incident hit home for the former longtime White House reporter, who had his own rough experiences. What happens to a reporter who crosses them? An excerpt: “I assume Post White House Reporter Zachary Goldfarb reporter, who wrote the story, got the full fusillade of profanity-laced fake fury from the White House press office, which is routinely served up to those who write articles the White House doesn’t like. The purpose of such treatment, and the denial of the housing ‘scoop’ to the Post, would be to get inside Goldfarb’s head so that he doesn’t try this again.”

Koffler told FishbowlDC that he believes White House press aides continue to bully reporters into reporting what they want. He recalled his own bad memories, saying, “Some of it was funny. One told me, ‘You’re really going to win a fucking Pulitzer Prize for this one.’ Another, less funny, remarked that my article was ‘horseshit,’ demanding to know sources.”

We requested comment from the White House Press Office. Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest replied blandly, “I talked to Keith occasionally when he worked for Roll Call, but I haven’t really heard from him since he left to start his own blog a year or so ago.”

More on Koffler’s charges against the WH press office…

Koffler: “I was on the receiving end of profane verbal abuse from White House press aides over stories they didn’t like several times during my coverage of the Obama campaign and Obama White House for Roll Call from about mid-2008 until January 2010,” he said. “But I understand from others the practice continues, with the most recent public example being the nasty treatment of CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson for her reporting on possible perjury by Eric Holder in testimony about the Fast and Furious case.

“I didn’t mind it personally because I understood it was a tactic to intimidate. Some of it was funny. One told me, ‘You’re really going to win a f___g Pulitzer Prize for this one.’ Another, less funny, remarked that my article was ‘horsesh*t,’ demanding to know sources.

“What really angered me is that this is ultimately suppression of speech. They are clearly trained to attack reporters, and it’s a strategy designed to keep journalists from uncovering facts and reporting the news. This from the ‘openness’ administration. And reporters are in a bind because they need to have good relations with the press office in order to get information that might otherwise go to competitors, which might obviously invite some nasty comments from their editors.”

Read here.

Petty Punishment for the Washington Post

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