Did the White House interfere with NYT research of Kagan?

posted at 2:20 pm on June 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Judicial Watch announced this morning that it has a series of e-mails between the White House and Irving Kagan, the brother of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, that blocked a New York Times reporter from access to him.  Sharon Otterman had already made arrangements to sit in on Kagan’s class at Hunter College High School as a way to get some background on Barack Obama’s nominee.  As soon as Otterman informed the White House of the arrangement, however, White House media relations officer Joshua Earnest told Kagan to cancel it — and to stop granting media access without checking with the White House:

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from Hunter College High School regarding a White House effort to deny New York Times education reporter Sharon Otterman access to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s brother Irving, who currently teaches at the New York school. Otterman requested and received permission from both the school and Irving Kagan to attend one of Mr. Kagan’s constitutional law classes before White House Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest intervened. “I’m definitely not comfortable with that at this point,” Earnest wrote to Ms. Otterman on May 11, 2010.

Earnest instructed Irving Kagan in an email on May 11 to direct press inquiries directly to the White House:

“This reporter says she has permission from you and from the school to sit in on your class. I’ve articulated my concerns to the [Hunter College public relations representative] Meredith [Halpern] – who now says she agrees with me. I’ve articulated my concerns to the reporter, who’s feeling misled that we’re telling her no and she says she was told yes.

“In the future, it’s important to direct all reporter inquiries to the White House. It’ll be easier for you to stay out of the middle of these conversations if you send them directly to us without responding.”

It doesn’t seem like a big problem for a reporter from the New York Times to audit a constitutional law class taught by Kagan’s brother.  Nor, of course, is it an issue if the White House wants to request that Irving Kagan allow them to handle media requests.  But the patronizing tone, as well as Earnest’s quick intercession to block the Times from Kagan’s classroom, look like a White House determined to quash legitimate media review of high-profile appointees, especially to a lifetime appointment for the highest court in the nation.

Earlier, I contacted Sharon Otterman, who covers education for the Times, to ask for her response:

I’m glad that Judicial Watch got these documents via our state’s Freedom of Information Law. It was helpful for me to see the parts of this exchange that I had not been privy to.

Is this a scandal?  It certainly doesn’t meet the standards Barack Obama himself promised of delivering the most transparent administration in history, but there are far more scandalous examples than this.  This does make the White House look defensive and petty, especially considering Otterman’s education beat; it seems rather clear that Otterman was looking for human-interest background relating Kagan’s nomination to education.

I have also contacted Joshua Earnest for comment on this story.  If I receive a response, I will update the post.


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Judicial Watch announced this morning that it has a series of e-mails between the White House and Irving Kagan, the brother of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, that blocked a New York Times reporter from access to him.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 2:22 PM

I’m shocked.

Rocks on June 30, 2010 at 2:23 PM

Most transparent administration, evah!

GarandFan on June 30, 2010 at 2:26 PM

There is something really wrong with the Kagan nomination…we won’t see it until after she is confirmed. Then we will see it for years and years.

d1carter on June 30, 2010 at 2:26 PM

Is this a scandal? It certainly doesn’t meet the standards Barack Obama himself promised of delivering the most transparent administration in history, but there are far more scandalous examples than this.


Scandal count in just the last 48 hrs

Obama and Balanoff–”I want to talk to you about the Senate job Tom”
White House blocking NYT from talking to Kagan’s brother
10 Russian spies captured and Obama says “Pass the ketchup”

there are so many scandals coming that it is hard to keep up. And these certainly aren’t trumped up scandals, these are all certainly in the realm of stuff that should be investigated to the nth degree—some in the realm of watergate, IMO.

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 2:26 PM

Walpingate scandal? cricket cricket?

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 2:27 PM

Isn’t this old news now? Or simply deja vu.

maverick muse on June 30, 2010 at 2:27 PM

So many scandals. Nobody cares. America has been fundamentally changed.

faraway on June 30, 2010 at 2:29 PM

The matter of the Russian spies.

They are here to learn about more extreme Stalinist tactics.

The administration is trying to keep scum comments about obama’s deeds out of the Blago trials.

seven on June 30, 2010 at 2:29 PM

Obama and Balanoff–”I want to talk to you about the Senate job Tom”
White House blocking NYT from talking to Kagan’s brother
10 Russian spies captured and Obama says “Pass the ketchup”

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 2:26 PM

DOJ (holder) and the “new black panthers” breaking on FOX.

VegasRick on June 30, 2010 at 2:29 PM

The most ethical administration evah…

dogsoldier on June 30, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Isn’t this old news now? Or simply deja vu.

maverick muse on June 30, 2010 at 2:27 PM

I thought the same thing myself. Didn’t this happen last week or so.

Johnnyreb on June 30, 2010 at 2:30 PM

We have to pass it to find out what’s in it.

We have to put it in place to find out how it works.

We have to confirm her to find out what she believes.

Daggett on June 30, 2010 at 2:33 PM

Of course they may have. Which begs the question, so what?

She’s getting approved with no real vetting or questioning.

patrick neid on June 30, 2010 at 2:34 PM

It sure does appear this bho and team has interfered with ALL reseach on everything that they are involved with!
L

letget on June 30, 2010 at 2:35 PM

Still shocked.

Rocks on June 30, 2010 at 2:36 PM


obtained documents from Hunter College High School

Error 404

Cindy Munford on June 30, 2010 at 2:36 PM

All free speech must go thru the white house press office. It is only fair you know

georgealbert on June 30, 2010 at 2:39 PM

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 2:22 PM

It doesn’t matter, they do not read anything anyway.

tommer74 on June 30, 2010 at 2:41 PM

It’s good to be the king.

How’s that transparency workin’ out for ya, MSM?

hillbillyjim on June 30, 2010 at 2:41 PM

All free speech must go thru the white house press office. It is only fair you know

georgealbert on June 30, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Along with a modest handling fee.

Electrongod on June 30, 2010 at 2:42 PM

DOJ (holder) and the “new black panthers” breaking on FOX.

VegasRick on June 30, 2010 at 2:29 PM

check out Mr. Adams’ column today over at http://www.pajamasmedia.com

he had one a few days ago–comprehensive and a whole lot of trouble for Holder et al. I’m glad to see it getting bigger press.

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Earlier, I contacted Sharon Otterman, who covers education for the Times, to ask for her response:

I’m glad that Judicial Watch got these documents via our state’s Freedom of Information Law. It was helpful for me to see the parts of this exchange that I had not been privy to.

Jeez, Ed, I didn’t know Kenya had a “Freedom of Information Law.”

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on June 30, 2010 at 2:47 PM

Why do they have to be so damn Ugly, Sotomayor with her droopy necked slouch, Kagan who obviously gets her fashion sense from Hillary. I thought the prince of Darkness covered himself in the finest raiments, better to deceive the people, I guess even he got duped this time,BWAhahaqhaha!

Bobnormal on June 30, 2010 at 2:48 PM

Since when in hell is it ok for the White House to block a private news reporter from sitting in on a class taught by a private citizen?

Irving is not a nominee here, why should it matter what he is teaching? Is it that bad that even the NYTimes would think it a scandal? I would imagine they would approve of what he’s teaching, unless it is out right marxism, and even then that would be Irving’s problem, not Elena’s. This episode is the ugly side of Dear Liar’s fascism, the demand to control everything.

rbj on June 30, 2010 at 2:52 PM

Cindy Munford on June 30, 2010 at 2:36 PM

It’s not a misprint – there is a Hunter College High School. Very prestigious private school that is connected to, and shares some faculty with, Hunter College. My grad school roommate went to both the High School and College.

rockmom on June 30, 2010 at 2:53 PM

How many times are we required to note instances that seem defensive and petty from this White House before we declare the White House defensive and petty?

tbradshaw on June 30, 2010 at 2:54 PM

“As soon as Otterman informed the White House of the arrangement,”

Why is a NYT reporter informing the WH of what she is doing? Does she also inform them when she’s going to take a pi……

Dusty on June 30, 2010 at 2:59 PM

we old guys had better live long enough to fix this crap. our children and grandchildren will forget real freedom and the texts will be “fixed” so no one remembers. my wife is from hungary and you would not believe the shizzle she was taught as a child.

devadevadasa on June 30, 2010 at 3:02 PM

How’s that transparency workin’ out for ya, MSM?

hillbillyjim on June 30, 2010 at 2:41 PM

It should have been a major “no transparency” scandal when Obama had all his records sealed. I don’t know how anyone could have been fooled after that.

Daggett on June 30, 2010 at 3:04 PM

If a reporter is not allowed to listen to Kagan’s brother teach high school, why have we STILL not seen Obummer’s transcripts from college?

What are they hiding???

Steve Z on June 30, 2010 at 3:06 PM

Maybe Obama confuses the terms “transparency” and “opacity”

hawksruleva on June 30, 2010 at 3:06 PM

d1carter on June 30, 2010 at 2:26 PM

nail. head.

cmsinaz on June 30, 2010 at 3:08 PM

We have to pass it to find out what’s in it.
We have to put it in place to find out how it works.
We have to confirm her to find out what she believes.
Daggett on June 30, 2010 at 2:33 PM

Bingo…..

TeresainFortWorth on June 30, 2010 at 3:09 PM

We have to confirm her to find out what she believes.

Daggett on June 30, 2010 at 2:33 PM

found that out with sotomayor didn’t we

cmsinaz on June 30, 2010 at 3:09 PM

Is this a scandal?

Well, if it isn’t, Holder’s actions in the Black Panther voter intimidation case certainly qualifies.

Disturb the Universe on June 30, 2010 at 3:10 PM

Is this a scandal?

Look at us. Look what we are doing. There is so much going on around us that is unethical, immoral, illegal, anti-American and downright criminal that it is utterly ridiculous that we are even asking that question, isn’t it. Hell yes, it’s a scandal–NBPP, Blago, SEIU, Van Jones, Kevin Jennings, Gaspard, Anita Dunn, Holder, Sestak/Specter, Russian spies, and on and on and on…..the system is flooded with scandal and criminalities. The better question than “Is this a scandal?” (that’s so pre-2008 is “Is the White House daring the American public to impeach Mr. Obama?”……. think about it.

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 3:23 PM

Is this a scandal?

Forest… Trees…

The very presence of Barry Soetoro at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Is a scandal.

Unfortunately, only our decendents will know the full story of the Great Coup of 2008.

*sigh*

turfmann on June 30, 2010 at 3:36 PM

There is something really wrong with the Kagan nomination…we won’t see it until after she is confirmed. Then we will see it for years and years.

d1carter on June 30, 2010 at 2:26 PM

Nothing but a well coached, lying socialist.

There may be two good parts:

1) Who will listen to this person’s drivel? Her “best ideas” are lies and ordinary thought mendacious.

2) What are her genetics? From physical appearance is a less than average life span likely?

3) Okay, so I said two. Shaddup and pay attention.
Is there a dementia removal for a justice?

Having Arlen Spector request the courtesy of a decent reply is almost worth hearing Kagan spin.

Caststeel on June 30, 2010 at 3:44 PM

No wonder Obama needs a Kill Switch.

J.E. Dyer on June 30, 2010 at 3:54 PM

Dr. Goebbels would approve.

Del Dolemonte on June 30, 2010 at 3:55 PM

A solid B+ for White House transparency.

OldeSCfan on June 30, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Most transparent, corruptive administration…..EVAH!!!!

capejasmine on June 30, 2010 at 4:19 PM

White House Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest

It still blows my mind that there is a WH press secretary named Josh Earnest.

Missy on June 30, 2010 at 4:19 PM

Ok can’t resist. Kagan = Kevin James in a wig.

Twins separated at birth?

jazzmo on June 30, 2010 at 4:33 PM

It certainly doesn’t meet the standards Barack Obama himself promised of delivering the most transparent administration in history, but there are far more scandalous examples than this

Can we cut the pc crap and talk about reality. This administration doesn’t give a rat’s a$$ about transparency. In Nobama’s own words, “Words, just words” by the time we admit that we are in the middle of a war for our country’s future, it will be to late. WAKE UP PEOPLE! This guy is playing the American people like a fiddle.

GrayDog on June 30, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Sorry, nothing will come of this.

sandee on June 30, 2010 at 5:34 PM

Why isn’t Sharon Otterman pitching a fit? Is it her intention to lie down and take one for the liberal team?

ExpressoBold on June 30, 2010 at 6:31 PM

It’s not an issue if the WH requests that Kagan allow them to handle media requests?
Ed,I think you got some “splainin’ to do”.

DDT on June 30, 2010 at 6:37 PM

Isn’t this old news now? Or simply deja vu.
maverick muse on June 30, 2010 at 2:27 PM

.
maverick muse, I agree. There is a lot of “old news” floating around on HotAir.
.
With all due respect to Allah & Ed, this site has lost much of its cutting edge since Michelle Malkin is no longer at the helm. So many more relevant, not to mention timely, stories go unreported.
.
And very few stories are as hard hitting as they were in earlier
years: 2006-2009. The few original commenters along with a handful of newer ones are what keep my interest.

NightmareOnKStreet on July 1, 2010 at 12:06 PM

What really ticks me off is these people have given up any pretense of trying to hide their dirty tricks. They’re blatant about everything. They know the Lame Stream Media aren’t going to call them on the BS. They know their fellow dems in congress will back them up. And the American people will have to wait four more months before we can start cleaning house. I just hope the memory of the voters isn’t as short as it has been in the past. “Keep the outrage alive” should be our battle cry.

greasywrench on July 1, 2010 at 2:51 PM