To paraphrase Glenn Reynolds, they told me if I voted for Mitt Romney, there would be a White House crackdown on media and journalists — and they were right! While attending a rally for Mary Burke in which Michelle Obama spoke for the Democratic gubernatorial challenger in Milwaukee, Journal-Sentinel reporter Mary Kissinger planned to discuss the speeches and the rally with the attendees. However, White House staff and a Burke aide forbade Kissinger from doing so before the event started:
Reporters told not to talk to the crowd. Really?#michelleinmilwaukee
— megkissinger1 (@megkissinger1) September 29, 2014
@billis820 I did NOT comply. Read the story
— megkissinger1 (@megkissinger1) September 30, 2014
At the Burke event, a number of people in the crowd were upset about a lack of seating. Several people, including a woman using two canes, complained that she had nowhere to sit.
Reporters and photographers were cordoned off in a central area with chairs and tables. Several people in the crowd asked if they could have extra chairs reserved for the media — but reporters were initially forbidden from handing them over. Eventually, some of the Burke staff gave the extra chairs to attendees.
Burke and White House staff also told reporters not to talk to people in the crowd before the event.
Oddly, though, this nugget got buried under rather pedestrian reporting on the rally, as well as another for incumbent Scott Walker. Other media outlets found the buried lede anyway, including CNN’s Jake Tapper:
Gov candidate "Burke and White House staff also told reporters not to talk to people in the crowd before the event"http://t.co/zmryWqQb1U
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) September 30, 2014
CBS’ affiliate in Washington DC managed to cover it, headlining the reporter’s treatment but putting that part of the story farther into the article:
“[A]ssigned to cover Michelle Obama’s speech today and was told by a Mary Burke aide and one for the White House that I could not speak to the people in the crowd. To say that I was creeped out is an understatement. This is what reporters do in America: we speak to people,” Kissinger posted. “At least that’s how I’ve been doing things — at all kinds of political events — since 1979.”
Kissinger wrote that reporters and photographers were cordoned off during the event.
“Reporters and photographers were cordoned off in a central area with chairs and tables. Several people in the crowd asked if they could have extra chairs reserved for the media — but reporters were initially forbidden from handing them over. Eventually, some of the Burke staff gave the extra chairs to attendees,” Kissinger reported.
John Fund reminds us that this isn’t really an outlier for this White House:
Even though Barack Obama rode into office in 2008 on a wave of media adulation, the Obama administration has exhibited a fiercely hostile attitude towards reporters. It has vigorously prosecuted low-level national-security leakers — while it ignores friendly leakers from the White House who puff up its image. This has led formerWashington Post editor Leonard Downie to observe, “In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press.” Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists concluded that Obama “will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.”
Meg Kissinger was correct to feel “creeped out” by an order from the White House not to talk to people at a public rally for a political candidate. Too bad more media figures aren’t getting “creeped out” along with her.
Addendum: Not unrelated — DHS just settled with the Washington Times over the seizure of Audrey Hudson’s notes:
An administration that abuses the freedom of the press can only get away with it if the press allows it. Under a settlement agreement with this newspaper, a chastened Department of Homeland Security must now instruct its employees that the First Amendment prohibits interference with news gathering under the guise of law enforcement.
A dispute arose last year when Maryland State Police officers and a Coast Guard investigator named Miguel Bosch raided the home of Audrey Hudson, who was at that time a reporter for The Washington Times. Homeland Security was her beat, and her work did not always reflect the flattering and uncritical light the government officials thought was their due. …
The agents had a warrant to enter Mrs. Hudson’s home to look for registered firearms and a “potato gun.” During the raid, Mrs. Hudson’s investigative files were taken, including her handwritten notes concerning the air marshals service. There was no plausible connection between those clearly labeled reporters’ notes and the subject of the warrant. The notes had nothing to do with either potatoes or guns.
I wrote about this case eleven months ago. It demonstrates that reporters should have been creeped out long ago by this administration.