Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Despite the desperate cries to the contrary of just about everyone, it looks very much like Carol Coleman WAS asked to submit her questions to Bush in advance. Scottie Mac was given an excellend opportunity to deny this claim yesterday, and gave this performance:

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Q Did anyone in the White House or the administration ask Irish television or its reporter, Carol Coleman, to submit questions in advance of her interview with the President last Wednesday?

MR. McCLELLAN: Bill, a couple of things. I saw I guess some reports on that. I don't know what every individual office -- whatever discussions that they have with reporters in terms of interviews. But obviously, the President was -- is pleased to sit down and do interviews with journalists, both from abroad, as well as here at home, and to talk about the priorities of this administration. And I think anytime that there is an interview that's going to take place, obviously there are staff-level discussions with reporters before that interview and to --

Q -- what are the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, to talk about what issues might be on their mind, and stuff. That's -- but, reporters --

Q That's not the same thing as asking for --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. Let me finish.

Q -- and my question is, were questions asked for.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. Reporters, when they meet with the President, can ask whatever questions they want. And any suggestion to the contrary is just --

Q Right, but that doesn't answer the question. Did somebody in the administration ask her for questions in advance, and is that your policy?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in terms -- you're talking my policy?

Q No, the administration's policy.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what an individual staffer may or may not have asked specifically of this reporter, but some of these interviews are set up by people outside of my direct office and control.

Q Well, will you say from this lectern that it is not the policy of this White House to ask for questions in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: Will you let me complete what I'm trying to say? Thank you. Just hold on a second. As I said, and you know very well from covering this White House, that any time a reporter sits down with the President, they are welcome to ask whatever questions they want to ask.

Q Yes, but that's beside the point.

MR. McCLELLAN: And certainly there will be staff-level discussions, talking about what issues reporters may want to bring up in some of these interviews. I mean, that happens all the time.

Q Indeed, it does.

MR. McCLELLAN: So reporters are able to ask whatever questions they want, Bill.

Q Right, but that wasn't my question. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll be glad to look into this further.

Q Is it policy to ask for questions in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I don't know what some individual staffer may have done in another office, specifically in terms of this question that you're asking. I'll be glad to look into it. But reporters can ask the President whatever questions they want. I think we've addressed this question.

Q Is it your policy to ask for questions in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it is not my policy. In fact, if reporters would give me their questions, this press briefing would be a whole lot easier, I'm sure. But that's not my policy.

Q Sometimes you might answer them. (Laughter.)

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Just to be clear, on MONDAY Coleman accused the White House (actually she didn't phrase it as an accusation, apparently assuming that this was SOP for the Bush administration) of making her submit her interview questions to Bush in advance. This is a very, very serious accusation, and the White House had spent the last few days sliming Coleman to anybody who would listen. But McClellan pleads ignorance when he's asked about Coleman's accusations, saying he doesn't know if somebody asked her to submit her questions in advance.

If the WHPC lets this drop, and somebody spray-paints "Fuck the Pope" on the National Press Club building next Wednesday, well, it wasn't me.

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