The White House Press Office has denied the Boston Herald full access to President Obama’s Boston fundraiser today because they weren’t sure the paper would cover the event fairly in light of a front-page editorial by Mitt Romney that was published recently.
In response to the access request, White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told the Herald:
“I tend to consider the degree to which papers have demonstrated to covering the White House regularly and fairly in determining local pool reporters,” adding that
“My point about the op-ed was not that you ran it but that it was the full front page, which excluded any coverage of the visit of a sitting US President to Boston. I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the President’s visits.”
Lehrich also told the paper that it wasn’t banned on purpose and that the pool report arrangements had been made previously with the White House Correspondents Association and that they may be granted pool access for future visits.
So Lehrich denies it was an intentional slight and claims that the die was cast well in advance of the scheduled visit. But at the same time, he questioned whether or not the paper could be fair given the publication of the Romney op-ed?
Politicians play this game all the time with the press. But for the White House to put it out in the open and then deny that it has anything to do with a preference to only have a liberal newspaper cover the President’s event is another thing entirely.
Maybe the White House should listen to Boston University journalism professor Fred Bayles who told the Herald:
“Newspapers don’t have to be unbiased to get access. You can’t just let only the newspapers you want in.”
As the Herald points out, the Obama administration has had a testy relationship with the press and in particular with Fox News. Obama’s communications director, Anita Dunn, called Fox “an arm of the Republican Party,” and generally avoided interviews with the number one cable news network until fairly recently.
This is probably not the only time that this has happened to a conservative newspaper, but the Herald is the first one to expose the bias of the White House Press Office for all to see and they deserve credit for doing so.