Jay Carney ‘Unfettered’ White House Press Conference

With the Obama administration under siege on three separate scandals, White House spokesman Jay Carney had his hands full with a clearly angry press corps at Tuesday’s daily briefing. Carney faced tough questions on both the  investigation of the Benghazi terrorist attack cover-up and the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups, but the really contentious back-and-forth focused on the FBI’s secret seizure of phone records from Associated Press reporters and editors.

When Carney cited President Obama‘s support of legislation, during his four years as a member of the Senate, to protect the ability of journalists to investigate government wrongdoing,  Chuck Todd of NBC News lashed back:

Todd: You keep talking about then-Senator Obama supported a certain piece of legislation that, in fact, as president he killed that piece of legislation in October of 2009 — and made it so that the protections he supported … and he said the White House had problems with it and he killed it.
Carney: First of all, you’re talking about separate pieces of legislation and a legislative history that bears a little more looking into. The president’s position on this is what it was as a senator. But the fact is I cannot then appropriately apply his support for that measure -–
Todd: If he supported that piece of legislation, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today because he supported a judicial review that seemed to settle this. …
Carney: The legislative history here is a little more complicated that you represent. …
Todd: We know what he said on the campaign trail in 2008 in front of the Associated Press when it came to this issue. He had a chance to support this and make this bill happen … The admininstration said that essentially the president changed his position because of certain things on national security. Can you explain why?
Carney: Broadly speaking, the president does support the ability of journalists in an unfettered way to pursue investigative journalism. He believes we have to find a balance between that goal -
Todd: He believed it in 2008, but he didn’t believe it once he was president.

The government seized records covering two months in 2012 on some two dozen phone lines for Associated Press offices, reporters and editors, apparently as part of an investigation into a leak about a CIA operation in Yemen that foiled an al-Qaeda terror plot. The AP’s president, Gary Pruitt, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder saying there could be “no possible justification” for what he called “an overbroad collection of the telephone communications” by journalists, seeking information about their work “that the government has no conceivable right to know.” The attorney general has recused himself from the investigation of that scandal.

Carney was also caught by a reporter from Bloomberg News who accused the president’s spokesman of claiming that he is sure no one at the White House was involved in the IRS scandal, while also claiming he doesn’t know the details of the IRS scandal:

Carney’s performance during the press conference inspired unfettered online ridicule.



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