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Another Controversial NBC ‘Exclusive’?

The White House press corps is in an uproar today over the First Lady’s planned trip to Africa.

As the trip was announced yesterday, word came out that Mrs. Bush’s press secretary, Susan Dryden Whitson, made an exclusive (and “unprecedented,” in the words of one network vet) deal with NBC to cover the trip–no other cameras will be allowed on the plane and there will be no pool coverage to boot.

Phone calls and conference calls are flying back and forth today between the four other networks who were shut-out of the trip, as the White House press corps speculated what behind-the-scenes action led to the deal.

No one in the press corps can remember a time when a network was given exclusive rights to an official White House overseas trip. For instance, during the First Lady’s trip to Afghanistan, ABC traveled, but all the video was provided to the other networks via a pool.

Adding insult to injury, though, for the West Wing reporters: NBC isn’t even going to use one of its White House team. It’s assigned Ann Curry of the Today Show to cover the trip.

Mrs. Bush will be leaving from the G8 Summit, and traving to South Africa, among other other countries.

Neither NBC nor the White House was immediately available for comment this afternoon.

Given the $500,000 mystery around NBC’s exclusive with Jennifer Wilbanks, one has to wonder what NBC did to earn this exclusive.

2:30 P.M. UPDATE: NBC declined comment, referring all questions to the White House and the First Lady’s press office.

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