Revealed: White House has been censoring pool reports

The White House press corps frequently relies on a pool reporter, an individual who is selected to attend an event where it would be impractical for the entire press corps to participate. The pool reporter then writes up an account that is distributed to the entire group. However, it has just been revealed that the White House has been censoring those pool reports on occasion. Paul Farhi of The Washington Post has revealed this highly disturbing practice, which amounts to official government censorship:

Journalists who cover the White House say Obama’s press aides have demanded — and received — changes in press-pool reports before the reports have been disseminated to other journalists. They say the White House has used its unusual role as the distributor of the reports as leverage to steer coverage in a more favorable direction.

The examples cited in Farhi’s report are fairly minor (are there others more serious?), but reveal a tendency to censor matters that might reflect unfavorably on President Obama. For instance:

As the pool reporter on a presidential trip to California in mid-2012, Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News included a colorful scene in his pool file: Obama walking back to the press section of Air Force One bearing a dessert with a lighted candle to honor a veteran reporter who was making her final presidential trip. Gillman added the seemingly innocuous detail that Obama asked the honoree to blow out the candle and make a wish, “preferably one that had something to do with the number 270,” the minimum number of electoral college votes the president needed to win reelection.

A press aide, whom Gillman declined to identify, asserted that the details of this scene were off the record and refused to distribute Gillman’s account. Only after Gillman appealed to then-press secretary Jay Carney was the report finally sent — a day after the fact and long after reporters’ deadlines had passed.

Evidently, this practice did not begin with the Obama White House, but:

Some journalists say the Obama White House has been more vigilant than its predecessors in scrutinizing pool reports and at times has objected to seemingly trivial details.

The Obama White House has also restricted the access of photographers to the president, in order to have control of images the public sees, prompting official objections from the White House press corps.

The media has been overwhelmingly supportive of Obama, and studiously ignores stories like Benghazi and the IRS scandals, matters which would have prompted screaming daily headlines had a Republican president been in charge. But this is not enough control for the Obama team.

All the more reason to distrust the media.

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