At the White House presser on Wednesday, several correspondents questioned the way the Oval Office selected questions from the public for today’s virtual town hall.
President Barack Obama answered pre-selected questions Wednesday afternoon about health care sent in from emails, Facebook and Twitter. CBS’ Chip Reid and columnist Helen Thomas thought this reflected a lack of transparency at the White House.
“It feels like the concept of a town hall, I think, is to have an open public forum. And this sounds like a very tightly controlled audience and list of questions. Why do it that way?” asked Reid.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs deflected the question, but that only raised the ire of Helen Thomas, UPI’s veteran correspondent who has long been at the top of the White House press corps totem pole.
“We have never had that in the White House,” Thomas said, referring to the degree that press events are pre-scripted in the Obama administration. “I’m amazed, I’m amazed at you people who called for openness and transparency…”
That’s when things got testy, and Gibbs looked very uncomfortable as Reid and Thomas took turns attacking his evasive answers.
“Calling reporters the night before, telling them they’re going to be called on – that’s shocking,” Thomas said, referring to an incident last week when Huffington Post blogger Nico Pitney was given advance warning that he would be called on to ask a question on behalf of the Iranian public.
This video is from C-SPAN, broadcast July 1, 2009.