On Friday, we brought you a very curious clip from CNN host Fareed Zakaria, in which he discusses how the president calls him for "wisdom and advice." At the time, it seemed pretty clear and damning. Glenn Beck took significant time lambasting both CNN and Zakaria for having someone that says he's a journalist actually advising the president. It seems the message got back to Zakaria, becuase now he's denying that characterization.
In a blog post from Saturday night, Zakaria tries to dispel the notion that he's advising the president, even putting the term in scare quotes. Here's what he says in the post titled, "Clarifications on my conversations with the president:"
The characterization that I have been "advising" President Obama is inaccurate. Over the last few months I've had a couple of conversations with the president, off-the-record. At no point did President Obama ask me for advice on a specific policy or speech or proposal, nor did I volunteer it. I know that he has had similar meetings with other columnists.
That's it. He doesn't clarify why, if the conversation was "off the record," he's talking about it on national TV and in blogs. More importantly, he doesn't clarify why his fellow host, Elliot Spitzer, stated multiple times that Obama calls Zakaria "for wisdom and advice." And finally, he doesn't clarify why he never corrected Spitzer after Spitzer made those characterizations. Take a look:
Here's a transcript:
Spitzer: Look, I read something in the paper this week-- a couple days ago that actually brought a smile to my face. It said the president of the United States calls you for wisdom and advice about issues around the world. First, when he calls you what does he say? "Hi Barack, calling for Fareed." What does he do?
Zakaria: Mostly it's been face-to-face meetings. You know, it's usually organized by Tom Donilon, the national security adviser. What I'm struck by though, honestly Elliot, is how much time he's spending thinking about the issues of the Arab Spring, particularly the issues of Egypt, how to make Egypt go right, what are the mechanisms that the United States has to help the moderates and liberals. It's been a very thoughtful conversation; we'll see where it goes.
Spitzer: I'm not going to ask you what you have said to the president, but it makes my heart warm that the president is calling you for wisdom and advice. Thanks for coming on the show.
Zakaria: My pleasure.
But there are also plenty of other questions raised by Zakaria's "clarification." Who are the other "other columnists" Obama's meeting with? Do they consider themselves just having friendly off-the-record conversations, or offering advise? Why is Obama doing this? Is it to make the columnists feel important, thus securing covert support and less criticism?
Also curious: Guess what CNN's title (for now)* for the video is? "Obama getting advice from Fareed Zakaria." Screen shot below:
It seems even CNN is convinced Zakaria is giving Obama "advice."
We reached out to CNN for comment about Spitzer's characterization as well as its video title, and this is what we received:
"Since the question was put to Fareed Zakaria, and was based upon an interpretation written in a newspaper, Fareed wanted to add context and make things clear."
Maybe it's just me, but there now seem to be more questions than answers.
As thought, CNN has now changed the title of its video. It's now, "Zakaria in conversation with President Obama." We do, however, have a screen shot of the original title, which was the title up until Sunday afternoon.