White House Press Secretary Jay Carney drew the ire of reporters this week with his methodology for how reporters get called on to ask a question. The tradition is to let reporters sitting in the enviable front row ask their questions before moving around the room. On Tuesday, however, after Carney spent an extensive amount of time on those superstars that sit closest to him, he announced that he would “move around a little bit.” Before the words even come out of his mouth, Norah O’Donnell, Chief White House Correspondent for CBS, interrupted Carney and said, “That’s not fair. That’s SO unfair. Call on the boys and then when it comes to Norah, you go to the back.” This brought on a round of “OOOOHHHHS” from the White House Press Corps. NBC’s Chuck Todd leaped to O’Donnell’s defense by saying, “If you’re going to move around, move around from the beginning.” It’s worth pointing out that Carney had already gone to Laura MacInnis from Reuters very early in the briefing, so Norah’s accusation of sexism doesn’t hold water.
Let’s face it, O’Donnell wasn’t standing up for women everywhere. She was throwing a hissy fit because she didn’t get what she wanted. Not to mention, did she really refer to herself in the third person? Nevertheless, Carney caved to the demands of Queen Norah and let her ask her question. A defeated Carney then waited 44 minutes into the briefing before he left the front row, when he finally took a question from NPR’s Mara Liasson, who sits in the second row. A White House reporter who spoke on condition of anonymity, told FBDC, “”While Jay Carney has sometimes made excellent attempts to circulate [around] the room, Tuesday was one of the worst examples of the President’s spokesman being bullied by TV reporters in the front row to pay attention just to them.”
We have previously reported on Carney’s method, which is to jump around the briefing room before finishing with the front. This has ruffled the feathers of some of the cool kids that sit in the front row.
Is it really that easy to push Carney around? Just accuse him of phony sexism just to get a question in? We’ve requested comment from Carney and will report back if he responds.