Right-Wing Media Jump On False Report That White House Press Briefing Is "Just A Show"

››› ››› SOPHIA TESFAYE

Right-wing media outlets pounced on unsubstantiated claims that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pre-screens the press' questions before his daily press briefings. 

Local CBS Affiliate Reporter Claims The White House Received Press Questions In Advance

CBS-5's Catherine Anaya: White House Press Secretary Carney "Knows What He's Going To Be Answering." On March 19, Catherine Anaya, an anchor for an Arizona affiliate of CBS news, KPHO, interviewed President Obama in the White House. During an on-air discussion of her interview with the president, Anaya suggested that reporters were able to have coffee with Press Secretary Jay Carney during an off-the-record meeting in which Carney received questions from reporters before the daily press briefing: (emphasis added)

ANAYA: It was a very busy day. We started here shortly after 8 o'clock with a coffee with press secretary Jay Carney inside his office in the West Wing. And this was the off-the-record so we were able to ask him all about some of the preparation that he does on a regular basis for talking to the press in his daily press briefings. He showed us a very long list of items that he has to be well versed on every single day. And then he also mentioned that a lot of times, unless it's something breaking, the questions that the reporters actually ask -- the correspondents -- they are provided to him in advance. So then he knows what he's going to be answering and sometimes those correspondents and reporters also have those answers printed in front of them, because of course it helps when they're producing their reports for later on. So that was very interesting. [KPHO, 3/19/14, via The Weekly Standard]

Right-Wing Media Run With Claim That Press Briefing Is "Just A Show"

Weekly Standard's  Daniel Halper: White House Press Briefing "Just A Show." The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper wrote in a March 20 blog that Anaya revealed how "White House press secretary gets questions from reporters before press briefing":

A CBS reporter from Arizona reveals that President Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, receives questions from the press in advance of his daily press briefing. In fact, she says, the reporters often receive the answers in advance of the briefing, too. [The Weekly Standard, 3/20/14]

Drudge Report: "Reporters Rehearse Questions With White House Press Sec." The conservative news aggregator, Drudge Report dedicated their main banner to hyping The Weekly Standard's write-up, promoting the story as "Reporters Rehearse Questions With White House Press Sec": 

[Drudge Report, 3/20/14]

Rush Limbaugh: "The Entire Press Briefing Is Being Scripted." During the March 20 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, the host used The Weekly Standard report to claim, "This means the entire press briefing is scripted! This is the kind of thing that upsets the soap opera narrative in the Beltway. Everyone's panicking now." [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 3/20/14]

But White House Reporters Quickly Refuted The Idea That Questions Are Submitted In Advance

Fox's Ed Henry: Report Is "Dead Wrong." Fox News' chief White House correspondent Henry tweeted to the author ofThe Weekly Standard blog that his account was "dead wrong,"asking Anaya to correct her "false story":

[Twitter, 3/20/143/20/14]

ABC's Jonathan Karl: Press Secretary "Doesn't Get My Qs." ABC's chief White House correspondent Jon Karl tweeted to Anaya debunking her suggestion that questions are submitted to the White House prior to briefings:

[Twitter, 3/20/14]

Leading Local CBS Affiliate To Walk Back Discredited Report

KPHO's Anaya Issued Statement: Speculation That White House Gets Question In Advance "My Mistake And I Own Up To It." Anaya apologized for the online speculation generated by her false claims in an email to Buzzfeed staff reporter Evan McMorris-Santoro, saying "I was attempting to not waste national time on a local question but in my attempt at explaining that I unintentionally made it sound like that experience applied to everyone. That is my mistake and I own up to it." Anaya also posted a statement to the KPHO website  following the widespread criticism:

It seems much had been inferred about my observations following my White House visit yesterday.

First, I did not take notes during our coffee with Jay Carney because it was off the record. But when I referenced the meeting in my live reports I did say that it was a great opportunity to talk about the challenges of his day and how he has to be so well-versed on many topics each day.

In my live report I also wanted to share my impression of my experience in getting a question answered during the briefing. I was indeed asked to provide my question in advance. Because my question was largely of local interest, I chose to save it for my interview with the President instead.

My mistake was to lump that experience with my coffee meeting reference, inadvertently giving Mr. Carney credit for that when in fact it did not come from him. I regret giving anyone the impression that it was from conversation I had with Mr. Carney.

I do not attend those briefings regularly and cannot speak directly to the process for non-visiting journalists.

None of my observations stemmed from my off-the-record meeting with Jay Carney. [Buzzfeed, 3/20/14]

UPDATE: After her initial apology, Catherine Anaya provided an additional statement about her "inaccurate" report posted to the KPHO website (emphasis added):

Last night during my live reports from the White House I attempted to describe the highlights of the day. I was speaking off the cuff and unscripted and in the process I made two major mistakes: I reported an off the record conversation and what I reported was not accurate. I took a conversation about the preparation for a press briefing and muddied it with my own experience of wanting to provide a question for the press briefing. I incorrectly applied the process to everyone. That was wrong and it was bad reporting. But it was not intentional and I would never purposely report inaccurate information. The White House never asked for my questions in advance and never instructed me what to ask. I chose to provide one of my questions in advance of the press briefing because I wanted to make sure it would have broad appeal. I did not attribute or report factually last night and for that I deeply apologize. I pride myself on truth and objectivity. I sincerely regret any harm I've caused and I hope that you will continue to place your trust in the hardworking journalists who make up CBS 5 News.

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