Obama chides media for not doing what he’s preventing them from doing

Politico’s senior editor has pushed back in a big way against President Barack Obama’s lecturing the media the other day on how to their jobs.

In remarks that were clearly targeted at Donald Trump, Obama urged the assembled journalists at Syracuse University to hold the ideals of a free press in its coverage of the candidate.

The crowd applauded at the conclusion of his remarks.

“What they should have done is bombard Obama with rotten fruit or ripped him with raspberries for his hypocrisy,” Jack Schafer writes in Politico.

He blasted the administration for setting a record in rejecting Freedom of Information requests, turning government employees into “information-squelching snitches”, and using the Espionage Act “to prosecute whistleblowers who leak to journalists more times than all previous administrations combined.”

“You could break Google by asking it to list all the top journalists who regard the Obama administration as Press Enemy No. 1,” he writes.

What makes Obama’s speech so unstomachable is the way he praises reporters at an award ceremony by calling their work “indispensable,” “incredible,” “worth honoring” and essential to democracy while simultaneously blocking honest press queries with all the formidable energies of his office. You’d expect this sort of contradictory behavior from Trump, whom Obama savaged (by implication) repeatedly in the speech. At one point, Obama complains about an unnamed politician (I think you can guess who) receiving billions in free media, and bemoans the fact that no “serious accountability” comes with it. But hasn’t Obama been doing the same grift from a different location for the past seven to arrange the same deal for himself?

Elsewhere in the talk, Obama sought honesty’s high ground by denouncing unnamed candidates for having become “untethered to reason and facts and analysis.” Obviously he meant Trump. But who is Obama to talk? He may not be as accomplished a liar as Trump. Nobody is. But he carries the very same contagion: The Washington Post Fact Checker’s Obama rap sheet is well stocked with “Pinocchios” for the lies and mistruths he has advanced over his White House years.

“The only press award he has any business awarding is a special commendation to Trump, thanking him for making Obama look like a free-speech radical by comparison,” Shafer concluded.

“So what the President seems to mean when he asks for a strong press that is willing to dig deeper and ask the hard questions is that he would like the media to do that to his opponents—but not necessarily to him or his administration,” Fortune’s Mathew Ingram writes.

“If you, like the president, care as much as you say you do about substance,” Melinda Henneberger, the editor of Roll Call, advises today, “then stop clicking on the schlock and support the good stuff.”

“In his last year in office, it’s not too late for him to stop making it harder for us to do ours,” she adds.

  • >>Said the president who holds the record for denying and withholding FOIA requests.<<

    Oh SNAP!

    • Ryan Johnson

      In the interest of “digging deeper,” how does that correlate to the overall number FOIA requests made?

      • Dan

        I checked FOIA.gov, couldn’t find easily accessible data for years prior to 2008, nor an easy way to report on all departments as a whole.

        For the DHS alone, in FY 2008 there were 108,952 requests received, vs. 291,242 in 2014.

  • Dan

    It’s a predictable reaction from journalists on the receiving end of criticism.

    • A poor substitute for analysis, Dan.

      • kat

        It is still a valid point- criticism makes people defensive. We are hearing from journalists that journalists are being mistreated and that is the only side. The administration hasn’t released any op eds on the topic. I find in my own profession, people often feel we are unfairly treated – when overall things are good.

      • Dan

        Not a substitute, just an observation. Brings to mind the phrase “never pick a fight with people who buy ink [pixels?] by the barrel”. While Obama’s comments seem tamer than “picking a fight,” he’s talking to a group with particularly thin skins — from anyone besides Jon Stewart, that is.

        “But FOIA requests” isn’t an analysis of whether or not the media has done a good job with their election coverage. Which is fine, honestly, media self-examinations and meta-analyses are almost always formulaic, self-serving, and devoid of substance — and a chore to read. Given the choice, I prefer “but FOIA”. But — it’s still a predictable reaction.

        As far as FOIA statistics, I wouldn’t spend too much time analyzing them. Particular instances that journalists found egregious would be better. Same with treatment of whistleblowers. But once you get specific, you get into discussions like, for example, whether what Chelsea Manning did was moral or legal. To some she’s a hero and to others she’s a villain.

      • Joe

        It’s true to some extent though, no? Is there really such a direct line between Obama blocking FOIA requests, and the media not being more critical of Trump? Are they unable to report on Trump effectively without the info that Obama is blocking them from receiving?

        If the connection is that linear, then they have a point. Otherwise it seems indirectly related, in that both topics are about reporters, but not directly related. And certainly comes across as defensiveness.

  • kat

    This topic confuses me, probably because I am not a journalist. Is Obama the worst, or is it reasonable to limit access in the world of partisan/tabloid style news like fox? It does seem silly for him to blame journalists for the current election craziness though

  • Gary F

    The media will still genuflect before him.

    • Rob

      A Pinocchio for your statement. Also, YAWN

  • Rob

    Let us not forget Obama’s resistance to public disclosure of documents containing the legal rationales for the administration’s Drone Program.

  • lindblomeagles

    Judging by the tone and content of Jack Shafer’s analysis of President Obama, Shafer appears to be stretching the truth. Shafer used phrases like “honest press queries,” “formidable energies,” “same grift,” “accomplished liar,” “contagion,” “rap sheet,” “well stocked with Pinocchios.” CLEARLY, the phraseology used in Shafer’s rant was for a purpose, and I think THAT PURPOSE was to speak for and to the following audience, Trump supporters and Republican voters, not the media. 1) For starters, ALL politicians seek to sanitize stories from their offices, and Shafer very well knows that. Just ask Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. 2) Moreover, President Obama isn’t the first, and he won’t be the last, President to praise the media while, simultaneously, controlling stories from the Oval Office. Shafer SHOULD know that too. Back in 2003, President George Bush told the biggest “Pinocchio” to the American Public when he said former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was stockpiling Weapons of Mass Destruction. While the media uncovered that “MEA CULPA,” George never did clarify what his Intelligence Community knew and didn’t know. He acted like he was justified regardless of not finding WMDs, and went about the business of carrying on a war with NO EXIT STRATEGY in sight. Shafer’s memory must be “unfathomably cloudy” regarding what some past Presidents and President Obama have lied about or kept from the media. But 3) just because politicians do that to reporters, that doesn’t make the reporters job less, as President Obama put it, indispensable, incredible, or essential to Democracy. Nor should the President’s alleged hypocrisy detract from America’s NEED for good journalists and the voters’ desire for honest journalism.