Wednesday, February 2, 2011

As Egypt Burns, Obama Ducks?

The White House Correspondents Association pressed today to get access to President Obama to ask the leader of the free world directly about the attacks in Egypt on peaceful pro-democracy protesters (reportedly by Mubarak- and Egyptian big business-backed thugs).

The White House declined, allowing only still photographers to witness Obama sign the new START treaty with Russia. Below Is a text of the WHCA letter sent to outgoing press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Good morning Robert,

We recognize that the crisis in Egypt is a quickly evolving story and you are working to get us the information we need in a timely manner, but we are concerned about several access issues on Tuesday and now today.

On behalf of the White House Correspondents Association we are writing to protest in the strongest possible terms the White House’s decision to close the President’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and his signing of the START Treaty today to the full press pool.

The START treaty was held up as one of the President’s most important foreign policy priorities for almost a year dating back to the trip to Prague last spring. We are concerned that now his signing of it is open to still photographers but closed to editorial, including print and wire reporters and television cameras.

We know the President came out late last night to speak on Egypt, and we appreciate the email updates from NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor, but his emails have not gone to all members of the press corps and are not a substitute for access to the Press Secretary or the President.

Prior to the President's statement Tuesday night, the press corps had not received a substantive update from the White House all day on the situation in Egypt. In addition, the press corps did not have an on-camera briefing, or an off-camera gaggle, with you yesterday to ask the White House about its decision-making process during this major foreign policy crisis. Now for two straight days the full press pool is being shut out of events that have typically been open and provided opportunities try to ask the President a question.

These issues are vitally important for all of our members - print, TV and radio.

We value our working relationship, and we hope you will reconsider and at least open the START Treaty signing to the full pool.

Thank you for your consideration,

The WHCA Board

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