White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has already had a well-documented feud with Fox reporter Ed Henry. And now he's tangling with ABC's Jake Tapper.
On Thursday, Tapper got frustrated with Carney's practice of bouncing around the briefing room to take questions. Instead of being methodical about it, Carney takes questions in random order. That's frustrating to some in the "front row," which is filled with reporters from the major networks who have historically received more time and attention, and who generally get their questions answered first.
But not with Carney. The L.A. Times reports:
Carney’s practice has been to jump around a bit -- fielding questions from the front row, sure, but also inviting questions from the reporters sitting in the cheap seats.
That practice caused a stir at the briefing on Thursday. ABC’s Jake Tapper was briefly skipped over so that George Condon of the National Journal – a fourth row dweller, mind you -- could ask a question.
Here's the exchange that ensued:
“Jake, I’ve been doing this for months,” Carney said.
“It’s annoying,” Tapper said, with a smile.
Carney replied “Oh, I’m sorry. Tell it to your colleagues.”
Tapper shot back, “You just decide you’re going to break with decades of precedent and just going to…”
“I’m going to ensure that 49 people in these seats, and move back and forth…” Carney began.
“Okay, then take a question about bestiality, go for it,” Tapper interrupted. “No, America wants to know about your position on bestiality.”
“I’m absolutely going to take care of everyone in the front row.” Carney said.
The bestiality remark was a reference to this month's exchange between Les Kinsolving and Carney, when Carney refused to answer a question about the Senate voting to remove the military ban on sodomy and bestiality. At the time, Tapper joked about the question.
The Times called it a "testy" exchange, while Mediaite characterized it as a "quasi-friendly" one. Here's the video; see what you think:
Tommy Christopher, a White House press briefing regular, offers his thoughts:
For what it’s worth, Tapper’s annoyance isn’t simply a matter of entitlement. He’s probably one of the busiest, hardest-working reporters on the White House beat, and the longer he has to wait to get his questions in, the closer he’s pushed up against whatever deadline comes next. He’s also not a question-hog, typically keeping his exchanges with the press secretary relatively brief. Others in the front rows treat the briefings like a casual dinner chat.
Carney, a former reporter himself, has endeared himself to the back six rows with his more egalitarian approach, and his briefings tend to last significantly longer than Gibbs’. I can’t be sure that this means more people are getting questions in (ironically, Les Kinsolving would know; he keeps detailed charts on the subject), but that seems likely.
It should be noted, by the way, that the Senate has changed the language on the bill that would have dropped the ban on bestiality. The act will stay outlawed.