An Arizona-based reporter let a cat out of the bag. According to the Weekly Standard, the reporter visited the White House and got to go on a sort of tag-along with WH spokesman Jay Carney. Carney admitted during the off-the-record session that the questions that he gets in the White House press briefings are usually sent to him in advance. He also usually provides the answers to those questions in advance.

“And then he also mentioned that a lot of times, unless it’s something breaking, the questions that the reporters actually ask — the correspondents — they are provided to him in advance. So then he knows what he’s going to be answering and sometimes those correspondents and reporters also have those answers printed in front of them, because of course it helps when they’re producing their reports for later on. So that was very interesting.”

Interesting indeed. If true, then the briefings we see everyday are just stage-managed set pieces coordinated between the media and the Obama White House that the media is allegedly covering. It’s all an illusion.

Our second piece in this post comes from Politico. First Lady Michelle Obama has decided that she doesn’t need the state-run media to accompany her on her taxpayer-funded vacation to China. Politico isn’t exactly the most adversarial outlet that the Obama White House deals with. But when Dylan Byers wanted answers to some apparently innocuous questions regarding the First Lady’s taxpayer-funded vacation to China, he was shown the back of the White House’s hand. Across several hours of inquiry, Byers never got a satisfactory answer, and his contact would not even allow him to use their name.

Now, I’ll leave frustration over Michelle Obama’s trip to The New York Times, Nick Krisfof, The Weekly Standard and Drudge Report (a motley crew right there). What I want to know – and what I’ve wanted to know since last October – is why the spokesperson in the First Lady’s office didn’t want to give me a name I could put on a harmless, formulaic quote?

This sounds to me like Byers’ contact fears retribution if they grant any media attribution.

Update: WH spokesman Jay Carney denies that he gets press questions in advance of his briefings. But it’s fair to say that Carney has an arms-length relationship with the truth, so his word is not all that reliable.

Update: Ed Henry of Fox and Jon Karl of ABC have both taken to Twitter to state that the story of Carney receiving questions beforehand is false. It has never seemed like Carney knew exactly what either of them, or several other reporters including Jake Tapper, were going to ask beforehand. His exchanges with them have gotten testy at times. On the other hand, Obama’s behavior during his infrequent press conferences does suggest that he has pre-planned which reporters he will call on, because he knows what they will ask. Perhaps the Arizona reporter is just confused?