Des Moines Register Calls Out Obama Over Off The Record Interview
Des Moines Register Editor Rick Green isn’t too pleased that the Obama campaign insisted that the paper’s interview with the President by off the record:
The Des Moines Register’s publisher and I spoke with President Barack Obama this morning — but we can’t tell you what he said.
Just four days before the Register’s presidential endorsement is released, Laura Hollingsworth and I received a phone call from the president. He was calling from Florida, on the heels of a morning campaign appearance and about 14 hours after his debate with GOP nominee Mitt Romney at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
The conference call lasted nearly 30 minutes and was an incredibly informative exchange of questions, answers and an insightful glimpse into the president’s vision for a second term. He made a genuine and passionate case for our endorsement and for reelection.
Just two weeks before Election Day, the discussion, I believe, would have been valuable to all voters, but especially those in Iowa and around the country who have yet to decide between the incumbent Democrat and his Republican opponent.
Unfortunately, what we discussed was off-the-record. It was a condition, we were told, set by the White House.
We learned Monday afternoon that the president would be available to us this morning. Like most newspapers around the country, the Register has lobbied for months to get both candidates to appear before our editorial board to analyze the important issues confronting Iowa, the rest of the country and the world.
Typically, these visits are an opportunity for us to ask questions, get details on platforms and positions and to contrast each opponent’s views. These exchanges are weighed when our five-member editorial board – which also relies heavily on independent and extensive research — meets and drafts our endorsement editorial.
It was a “personal call” to the Register’s publisher and editor, we were told. The specifics of the conversation could not be shared because it was off-the-record.
Of course, we immediately lobbied his campaign staff in Des Moines for a formal, on-the-record call. We were told it was not their decision; it came from the White House. We requested that the White House be asked to reverse course so whatever the president shared with us could be reviewed by voters and our readers.
No reason was given for the unusual condition of keeping it private.
We relented and took the call. How could we not? It’s the leader of the free world on line one
The Editorial Board was between a rock and a hard place. Interviewing the President is a tremendous “get” and it’s hard for any journalist to turn that down no matter what the conditions. However, it’s refreshing to see journalists calling out politicians for imposing ridiculous conditions like this on them.
Update: CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports on Twitter that the Obama campaign has relented and will allow the Register to treat the interview as being on the record. You can find the transcript of the conference call here.