If Eric Holder thought that he could sweet talk the media into getting off his back on the phone records scandal by holding an intimate "off the record" meeting at DoJ where he would outline new guidelnes for journalist subpoenas, he misjudged at least two news outlets.
Holder had invited the bureau chiefs of several major MSM media outlets, but the plan blew up in his face when the New York Times and Associated Press flatly refused to participate unless the meeting was on the record.
The Associated Press says it will not attend this week's off-the-record meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder unless the Justice Department decides to change its mind and conduct the meeting on the record.
"We believe the meeting should be on the record and we have said that to the Attorney General's office. If it is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend. If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter," AP spokesperson Erin Madigan said in a statement sent to POLITICO. "We would expect AP attorneys to be included in any planned meetings between the Attorney General's office and media lawyers on the legal specifics."
The AP's decision comes over an hour after The New York Times announced that it would not be attending the meeting, citing concerns about the DOJ's off-the-record provision.
"We will not be attending the session at DOJ. It isn't appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department's handling of leak investigations at this time," Jill Abramson, the Times' executive editor, said in a statement. Abramson said the paper's legal counsel would attend a future session on the legal aspects of leak cases.
The Justice Department announced this week that it was contacting Washington bureau chiefs from major national news organizations to set up a meeting with Attorney General Holder to discuss changes to the department's guidelines for subpoenas of reporters. On Wednesday, The Huffington Post reported that those meetings would be conducted off-record, meaning the bureau chiefs would not be free to report on Holder's remarks.
Allah lays it out for the ethics-challenged MSM:
Gut-check time for the press: If they're truly offended by the DOJ's secret snooping on James Rosen and the AP, they won't agree to attend Holder's gladhanding session unless/until he agrees to make it on the record, right? Press freedom and government transparency are either important or they're not. If they're not, then yeah, an off-the-record session in which the powers that be privately assure a guild that they're on their side will do just fine. Happens all the time in the Obama White House.
You might expect the AP to refuse to meet off the record, they being an aggrieved party in this matter. But it's interesting that the Times is also refusing the meet. My guess would be that the Washington bureau chief, David Leonhardt refused the conditions, not the Times editorial braintrust. It's a big story and Leonhardt would no doubt want unfettered access to all its particulars.
With the meeting last week at the White House with several friendly columnists and pundits, the administration appears to be in a full court press to swing the media back to cheerleading mode. It's not exactly a sign of panic, but it certainly shows that the White House is very concerned that their carefully crafted media narrative is getting out of their control