After the Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney and The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank engaged in a heated debate about Pitney’s question from an Iranian at President Obama’s recent press conference. According to Pitney when the segment concluded Milbank turned to him and said, “You’re such a dick.” The controversy isn’t about the question, but that a blogger got “the moment” of a news conference.
Here is the video courtesy of Think Progress:
Milbank joined in the right wing chorus of calling Pitney a planted questioner. Milbank accused Obama of rigging the press conference, “But yesterday’s daytime drama belonged primarily to Pitney, of the Huffington Post Web site. During the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the Huffington Post often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions. But here was Obama fielding a preplanned question asked by a planted questioner — from the Huffington Post.”
On CNN’s Reliable Sources Pitney said, “From beginning to end there was no planning involved. I was the one who posted that that I was soliciting questions from Iranians. I chose the question. The reason President Obama made that comment is because he was trying to make a point that he was taking a question from and Iranian.”
He then took a shot at Milbank, “It is interesting that Dana, of all people wrote this column very negatively. This is a person, Dana, who when he had a chance to ask Obama a question he approached him in the hall during the campaign and asked him not one, but multiple questions, about how he looked in a bathing suit. I mean that to me is pathetic, and you couldn’t stage manage me into that Dana.”
Pitney then posted on The Huffington Post, that Milbank called him a dick, “The only thing that surprised me was when Dana turned to me after our initial sparring and called me a “dick” in a whispered tone (the specific phrase was, I believe, “You’re such a dick”). Howie Kurtz wrote on Twitter that he didn’t hear it, which is understandable — he was doing the lead-in for the next part of the segment on the ABC White House special. But it happened (I urge Howie to watch the video of the panel during the ABC intro) and it was frankly pretty odd.”
Milbank appears to be a bit of a hypocrite though, because as Greg Sargent pointed out on his blog that Milbank wrote a column full of growing praise about the stagecraft involved in President Bush’s Mission Accomplished moment.
Back then Milbank wrote, “When the Viking carrying Bush made its tailhook landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off California yesterday, the scene brought presidential imagery to a whole new level. Bush emerged from the cockpit in full olive flight suit and combat boots, his helmet tucked jauntily under his left arm. As he exchanged salutes with the sailors, his ejection harness, hugging him tightly between the legs, gave him the bowlegged swagger of a top gun. For Bush — who also gave a national address from the carrier and spent the night aboard — it was a bold bid to surround himself with the aura of the U.S. military.”
For as long as there have been press conferences, presidents have been trying to manage them. Milbank’s allegation that Pitney’s was a planted question is not true. The fact that Obama essentially dodged Pitney’s question, hurts Milbank’s claim. If the same question would have come from a traditional media outlet, nobody would have raised an eyebrow.
Milbank seems to be complaining because the question came from a liberal political site. It wasn’t the question itself but the source, which Milbank is griping about. Milbank and Pitney obviously have a problem with each other, but Milbank’s outrage is a bit phony, because he, as well as anyone, understands the deal with presidential news conferences.