White House Stands by Black Bloggers

Online "summit" attendees were accused of breaking the rules, but the White House does not believe the ground rules for Monday's session were broken.

Pete Souza/White House
Pete Souza/White House

Except for the posting of a smart-phone video of President Obama greeting black bloggers and journalists — a video that found its way to the Drudge Report — the White House does not believe that ground rules for the Monday session were broken, according to the White House liaison for African American media.

Controversy over the meeting, which had gone virtually unreported in the mainstream media, increased late in the week after a Wednesday blog posting about the session by Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times. It began, “The White House is usually quite good at keeping a muzzle on the mediaafter one of its off-the-record sessions with President Obama and senior members of his administration.

“But not this week.”

Providing the meeting further notoriety, the Drudge Report and RealClearPolitics.com posted the blogger’s smart-phone video under an identical headline: “Obama: Blacks Probably Don’t Watch ‘Meet the Press’.”

What Obama actually said during his surprise visit to the online “summit” was, “The media is changing so rapidly. It allows us to reach audiences that may not be watching ‘Meet the Press’ — not that there’s anything wrong with ‘Meet the Press.’ I’m just saying that, you know, it might be a different demographic,” prompting laughs from the group.

Kevin S. Lewis, director of African American media for the White House, told Journal-isms on Friday that the bloggers did not break the ground rules, save for the posting of the video. Under those rules, as Peters wrote, the first half of the briefings was to be on background, meaning they could report any information they learned but not attribute it to any specific official; the second half was off the record entirely.

But Lewis, defending the bloggers, said of the meeting, “We didn’t make it a secret.” He noted that the White House posted its own account of the session on Wednesday morning, complete with a list of attendees.

As reported on Monday, the session took place as the Democrats attempt to solidify their African American base for the midterm elections. Among the 20 Web workers who attended were representatives of theRoot.com, Black Entertainment Television, Essence, Jack & Jill Politics, City Limits, Concrete Loop, AOL Black Voices, Black America Web and even the gossipy MediaTakeOut.

The session prompted a range of opinions about its propriety and the choice of invitees.