Lots of squawking going on in the media sandbox after President Obama called on HuffPost's Nico Pitney at today's press conference.
Seems some of the boys can't seem to understand why the president would have the nerve to call on someone whose Iran coverage has been praised throughout the media, from Charlie Rose to Andrew Sullivan to the Economist.
Politico's Michael Calderone couldn't seem to get over the order in which Nico was called on. "It was a departure from White House protocol," he fumed (the DC equivalent of "I'm telling Mom!").
Dana Milbank went the conspiracy route, calling Nico "a planted questioner" and tossing snarky comments into the mix: "Pitney recognized his prompt", "Pitney asked his question, as arranged." In Milbank's melodrama, "reporters in the room looked at each other in amazement at the stagecraft they had just witnessed. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel looked at the first row of TV correspondents and grinned." I'm certain if Emanuel had a mustache, Milbank would have portrayed him twirling it.
But hyperbole wasn't Milbank's biggest sin. It was repeatedly getting his facts wrong. He claimed: "Pitney had sent what he called a 'solicitation' to the White House." Not true. Nico solicited his readers about questions they'd like to see the president asked about Iran. The White House then contacted him about asking a question at the presser (When Nico pointed out the inaccuracy to Milbank, Milbank promised to correct his post. As of 10:10pm EST, he hasn't... quick to malign; slow to correct). Milbank also says "Obama aides agreed to call on the Huffington Post writer with the understanding that he would ask a question from an Iranian." Wrong. They never agreed to call on Nico; they alerted him that he might be called on. (You can read what actually happened, as told by Nico and Bill Burton, here and here.) Nico has been liveblogging about events in Iran almost around the clock for over a week. So did Milbank really suppose that Nico would have chosen to ask the president about something else? Steroids in baseball, perhaps? Oh, right -- one of Milbank's co-workers already did that.
Back at Politico, Ben Smith declared the calling on Nico "a nice case of symbiosis, not entirely unlike the Bush administration's close ties to Fox," branded HuffPost "left leaning" and part of "the new partisan media," and said that "what's good for the Huffington Post is good for the White House, and vice versa."
Now, I know Ben is a busy guy -- and I love reading him. But before he decides to characterize a site he really should take the time to, y'know, read what's on the site.
If he had, he'd have known that, unlike Fox and Bush, HuffPost regularly takes on the Obama administration.
Indeed, we have been critical of many administration decisions. Take my posts on the administration's handling of the financial crisis and the bank bailout for starters.
Was it "a nice case of symbiosis" when I called on Tim Geithner to resign, writing that "it was painful to watch Obama... go on Jay Leno and say that Geithner is doing an 'outstanding job,'" and that "Obama's assessment had more than a whiff of Bush telling Brownie he was 'doing a heck of a job'"?
Was it an example of "the new partisan media" when I laid out chapter and verse on Larry Summer's toxic ideas?
Was it "good for the White House" when I disparaged Obama's desire to put the Bush administration's use of torture in his rear view mirror?
How about when I chided the administration for capitulating on the cramdown provision in the bankruptcy bill?
And these are just a few examples (see the links below for more). And these are just my posts. We regularly run stories by our reporters and posts by our bloggers that no one could ever describe as "good for the White House."
Would Ben Smith say the same about Fox's coverage of Bush?
Michael, Dana, and Ben: come in from recess. You guys clearly need a nap. And a better fact-checker.