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President Obama Surprises Reporters With Highly Unusual Move


Attempt to "schmooze" the press?

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: U.S. President Barack Obama listens during a meeting with Peru President Ollanta Humala in the Oval Office of the White House on June 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. This is President Humala's first official visit to the U.S. with hopes to bolster ties and cooperation between the two countries. Credit: Getty Images

President Barack Obama (Credit: AP)

President Barack Obama on Tuesday held a surprise off-the-record meeting with a select group of reporters at the White House, a highly unusual move that has been described by some media outlets as an attempt to "schmooze" the press amid the multiple scandals tarnishing the Obama administration.

While it is normal for White House officials to meet with journalists for off-the-record "background briefing sessions," the president rarely -- if ever -- attends the meetings in person. Reporters are prohibited from mentioning attendees at the meeting by name or directly quoting them.

A group of about two dozen reporters from the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, TIME, McClatchy, Politico, the Tribune Papers, NPR, Bloomberg, USA Today and AFP were reportedly slated to talk with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. Then, out of nowhere, Obama made a surprise appearance.

While reporters who attended the meeting were hesitant to talk about it, New York Times White House reporter Peter Baker told BuzzFeed that reporters were not aware the president would be in the "briefing session." Had he been aware, Baker explained, he and and his editors "would have reconsidered whether to attend."

“Our concern about off-the-record sessions with the president is that they not become substitutes for opportunities to ask questions and get answers on the record, which after all is our job,” he added.

Relations between the White House and the press, once a very friendly affair, have grown at least somewhat more chilly after it was revealed that the Justice Department secretly collected phone records on several Associated Press reporters while investigating a national security leak.

The DOJ also went after Fox News reporter James Rosen for reporting on classified information, naming him a likely criminal "co-conspirator" and collecting his personal emails and his parents' phone records.



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