USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page is the latest in a series of journalists to criticize the White House on transparency.
At a White House Correspondents’ Association seminar on Saturday, Page described the Obama administration as “more restrictive” and “more dangerous” to the press than any other administration in history.
The Washington Post reports that her remarks were a “clear reference” to White House claims that Fox News’s James Rosen may be in violation of the Espionage Act.
The Post described the WHCA seminar as a means for its members “to strategize over how to open up the byways of the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history, as well as to compare war stories on the many ways in which it is not.”
Correspondents at the seminar described briefings where no names or quotations from officials present could be released and the need to go around the White House to other federal offices in order to receive any pertinent information at all.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz told the Post:
We believe in the value of transparency, and that is why we work to provide as much access as we can. That said, the press has a responsibility to always push for more access and if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs.
Bloomberg White House correspondent Margaret Talev told the Post that the White House would not even tell her what type of wine was being served at state dinners.
Journalists also expressed their frustrations that the day before the seminar, when President Obama met with Nina Pham, a Texas nurse who was recently declared Ebola-free, only photographers were admitted. No print or television reporters were permitted to be in attendance.
Former ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton told the Post she “struggled to fathom” why the White House would restrict access to the Pham meeting: “She’s been in government medical care for the last how many days? And she walks out unexpectedly looking terrific — why wouldn’t you want the world to see that the U.S. is doing what the White House has said? So today makes no sense to me.” [emphasis in original].
According to the Post, print and television reporters were also barred from a Sept. 16 meeting between Obama and another Ebola survivor, Dr. Kent Brantly.
The White House has been accused by journalists of delaying or altering press “pool” reports and restricting access to information. White House journalists are in the beginning stages of testing a system to bypass White House involvement in the distribution of the reports.