Media still bored by Obama press conferences

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Following President Obama's April 29 press conference, media figures on all three major cable news channels and elsewhere asserted that the press conference was "boring." Several commentators had similarly concluded that Obama's March 24 press conference was insufficiently entertaining, echoing Matt Drudge.

Following President Obama's April 29 press conference, media figures on all three major cable news channels and elsewhere stated that the press conference was "boring." As Media Matters for America noted, several commentators echoed Internet gossip Matt Drudge by similarly concluding that Obama's March 24 press conference was insufficiently entertaining.

Here's what the following media figures and outlets had to say about Obama's April 29 press conference:

  • During the April 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity, contributor Karl Rove said that the press conference "was boring," "flat" and "dull." He later stated: "There were a couple of very important moments in it -- I don't deny that -- but it was a boring, boring news conference."
  • During CNN's coverage of the press conference, contributor Ed Rollins stated: "I thought his opening statement was perfect. You know, what bothers me a little bit about it: As it goes on, it gets a little bit more boring. And, you know, you need to hold that attention span a good half-hour, a good 45 minutes. The answers are a little long. He doesn't know how to turn and pivot off of them. But nothing incorrect that I heard, it just -- it gets a little boring."
  • On MSNBC's Hardball Late Night, host Chris Matthews asked political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell: "Why, Lawrence, are these press conferences that this guy holds so frighteningly boring?" He added: "Why does everybody act like they're in a sepulchre of some kind? They're so dutiful, it's boring beyond death."
  • During the April 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson stated, "I suddenly woke up from nodding off" when Obama was asked by a New York Times reporter "what had 'enchanted' him."
  • In an April 30 Politico article headlined, "Obama works to avoid being exciting," editor-in-chief John Harris and senior political writer Jonathan Martin wrote that Obama's answers were "not usually all that newsy, and, let's face it, occasionally long-winded." They added: "Far from electric, this was a tranquilizing performance. So much so that it was impossible not to conclude that a president who certainly knows how to be exciting was making a calculated effort not to be."
  • In an April 30 entry titled, "Another boring press conference," posted on its Democracy in America blog, Economist.com asserted that Obama "still didn't say much that surprised anyone who has been alive since November. I'm starting to feel suckered into watching an hour-long campaign advertisement."

From the April 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

SEAN HANNITY (host): Karl, let's start general and broad. His first 100 days: How is he doing? How do you think he's doing? What did you think of tonight's press conference? You know, because it was such an enchanting time.

ROVE: Yeah. Well, first, the news conference was boring. And this -- you know, in 1962, an American sociologist named Daniel Boorstin wrote a book called the Pseudo-event, in which he said in American politics were things that were not spontaneous but planned for media coverage that had a certain ambiguity that caused people to sort of be interested in finding out what went on and were really not important except that somebody said they were important.

And tonight, we had a news conference that was not important except that they said it was important because it was the 100th day. They called it at the White House a hallmark day, but -- which they said in a jocular tone -- but they clearly prepared for tonight's event. But it was flat; it was dull. There were a couple of very important moments in it -- I don't deny that -- but it was a boring, boring news conference.

From CNN's April 29 coverage of the press conference:

ANDERSON COOPER (host): Ed Rollins, you've worked with President Reagan, a master of these sorts of things.

ROLLINS: Yeah. He had a very strong start. I thought his opening statement was perfect. You know, what bothers me a little bit about it: As it goes on, it gets a little bit more boring. And, you know, you need to hold that attention span a good half-hour, a good 45 minutes. The answers are a little long. He doesn't know how to turn and pivot off of them. But nothing incorrect that I heard, it just -- it gets a little boring.

From the April 29 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball Late Night:

MATTHEWS: Why, Lawrence, are these press conferences that this guy holds so frighteningly boring? Why does everybody act like they're in a sepulchre of some kind? They're so dutiful, it's boring beyond death. Have you noticed the way reporters behave in his presence? I've never seen anything like it.

There's no animation. There's no facial expressions. No one has the slightest expression on their face of anything. Look at them. They're dead people.

O'DONNELL: Well, I'm not sure --

MATTHEWS: What is that about?

O'DONNELL: I'm not sure how they're supposed to react other than listen and take notes, which are --

MATTHEWS: Animate human beings who are alive at the moment we watch them. That's what I'd like to see. Never mind, that's my thought.

From the April 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: So what were your assessments, Lanny? I'm assuming that you thought that the president did a good job, but let me ask you this: Was the questioning tough enough? Because that New York Times reporter, when he asked what had "enchanted" him, I suddenly woke up from nodding off.

LANNY DAVIS (Fox News contributor): I thought the enchantment answer would have been bold, but I don't know whether that was a real tough question. But I thought the question on torture was quite pointed.

From the April 30 Politico article:

The television networks have given President Barack Obama airtime for three prime-time news conferences in three months for an obvious reason: He is an exciting politician governing in a too-exciting-for-comfort time.

But this was sometimes hard to remember during Obama's hour-long outing before White House reporters Tuesday night.

The questions were greeted by slow nods and thoughtful pauses. When the answers came, they were precise, considered, sometimes academic, always articulate, not usually all that newsy, and, let's face it, occasionally long-winded.

Far from electric, this was a tranquilizing performance. So much so that it was impossible not to conclude that a president who certainly knows how to be exciting was making a calculated effort not to be.

Polls show Obama is more popular for his personal qualities than the specifics of his historically far-reaching agenda. And he has a need to frame that agenda to make it seem more a matter of hard, practical necessity than a reflection of his own ideological ambitions.

This logic, as it appeared on display in the East Room, dictates that Obama be perceived as cool, not hot; deliberate, not rushed; a leader reluctantly playing a difficult hand rather than one eagerly grasping at the opportunity for bold action presented by a crisis.

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