TENSE: ED HENRY CONFRONTS JAY CARNEY ON OBAMA STATEMENTS DURING WHITE HOUSE PRESS CONFERENCE
Jun. 10, 2013 3:47pm Billy Hallowell
White House press secretary Jay Carney clashed with both Fox News Chief White House correspondent Ed Henry and CBS News correspondent Major Garrett during Monday’s afternoon briefing.
Both intense exchanges surrounded the federal government’s data collection of phone and internet records and the administration’s handling of the issue.
Carney’s back-and-forth with Henry was the most notable. The journalist asked a number of pointed questions, especially about Obama’s claim on Friday that “every member of Congress” had been briefed on the NSA’s program involving monitoring of phone calls and Internet service.
“Why then are not just Republicans but Democrats like Keith Ellison saying ‘I’ve heard nothing about this.’?”
Carney responded by saying he couldn’t speak to “individual members,” and then launched into a prepared statement saying that the chair and ranking members had made clear that “every member” had been “advised of this” and “had the opportunity for briefings.”
Henry, not so willing to cave, pressed further. He noted that it seemed as though the administration was retroactively speaking with leaders about the issues at hand.
“If they have been briefed, why are they getting another briefing on Tuesday?” the reporter asked, referring to a meeting that is slated to discuss this issue tomorrow.
Watch the back-and-forth and Carney’s response:
Prior to this exchange, Carney said that President Barack Obama’s stance on the matter is that the government’s collection and use of data is a debate that “we should constantly engage in.” He also noted that the commander-in-chief is comfortable having a discussion about the matter.
To these points, Garrett responded, saying, “You said the president is comfortable having this debate. It’s obvious the debate would not be happening unless there would have been a leak.”
The point the journalist was making here is that the administration has been forced, via the leaks and intense media scrutiny, to address the issue. If the president is so willing and happy to debate such issues, the logic goes, why does it take leaks to make that happen?
Carney, not ready to back down on this point, claimed that Obama had already dealt with the subject in his counter-terrorism speech last month — an address that preceded the leaks. Interrupting one another as they debated, a portion of the back-and-forth looked like this:
CARNEY: According to the speech the president gave prior to the leak –
GARRETT: It had nothing to do with this –
CARNEY: Major, I would refer you to the speech. There was a section on this.
GARRETT: It didn’t discuss these specific methods.
CARNEY: You’re saying that he didn’t leak classified information? I agree with that.
GARRETT: No, I’m saying, if the president’s comfortable with this debate, it’s a debate that is now happening because somebody leaked information, correct?
Carney was not persuaded by Garrett’s continued questioning, again repeating his contention about Obama’s speech: “The president gave a speech calling for this debate several weeks ago prior to these leaks.”