Obama and the Media: Old Policy Resurfacing

At the same time, the San Francisco Chronicle, no member of the infamous right-wing conspiracy, came in for similar treatment. On April 20, 2011, Obama came to San Francisco for a fund-raiser at the St. Regis Hotel, which was interrupted by local activist, Naomi Pitcairn, who had paid $76,000 to attend, so that she and a group of fellow progressives could spontaneously serenade the president with a mocking ditty on behalf of Wikileaks source Private Bradley Manning.

The press attending the event had been restricted to pencil and paper, no cameras, no recorders.  Seeing the protest serenade as news in the making, Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci whipped out her smart phone and captured a stunned president being harassed by his ideological base.

After filing her pool report, Marinucci uploaded a video of the a capella  protest to S. F. Gate, the Chronicle’s web site. A senior reporter with impeccable liberal credentials, Marinucci found that she was not immune to the wrath of the White House.  The White House communications office  issued a heated warning that Marinucci was banned from all future presidential events and that if the Chronicle went public with the story of her banishment, the entire Hearst chain, of which the Chronicle is part, would find all its reporters banned.

The White House seemed to fail to comprehend that the San Francisco Chronicle is not a community weekly out in the East Bay.  Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Phil Bronstein, the Chronicle’s editor-at-large, realized that the threat to freedom of the press was bigger than the threat to the newspaper and put the story up on the S.F. Gate website.

The White House issued a denial, which immediately reminded one of the British quip not to believe anything government does until they officially deny it. Bronstein followed up by repeating Editor Ward Bushee’s remark calling the White House press office a bunch of liars.

So, before Lanny Davis, longtime adviser to Bill Clinton, was threatened by the Obama White House because of columns he had written for the Washington Times, and before the imbroglio with Bob Woodward hit the news, the White House had been using these tactics of threatening to cut off access for those who don’t toe the party line.

The mainstream media did not carry the story about the Pleasanton Weekly or about the San Francisco Chronicle; the blogs did. And even after the Davis and Woodward conflicts with the White House, the MSM still fails to underscore the real threat. This is about neither conflict nor personalities. It is about a responsible free media in a democratic society escaping the clutches of the authoritarian mindset: one that says the truth is what the leader says it is on any given day. Obama believes if he says the sequester was caused by the Republicans (it originated with the White House) and will result in economic collapse, that is the truth of the moment and the media need to repeat it. For those, like Bob Woodward, who don’t, there will be regrets.