During his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama vowed for a more transparent White House culture. Nearing the end of his second term, journalists conclude the president has failed to live up to that promise.
On May 24, media columnist Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post slammed the Obama administration for having “kept the media -- and therefore the public -- in the dark far too much over the past 7 1/2 years.”
Sullivan’s main gripe with the administration is how it responds to leaks, asserting that whistleblowers during the Obama years have faced more severe and sustained punishment for leaking information.
This charge echoes the criticisms made by New York Times investigative reporter James Risen, who in 2014 stated that the aggressive attitude to whistleblowers and prying journalists came from Obama himself.
“I don’t think any of this would be happening under the Obama administration if Obama didn’t want to do it,” Risen said, according to the Morning Sentinel. “I think Obama hates the press. I think he doesn’t like the press and he hates leaks.”
While wanting to protect certain government secrets is understandable in an age of terrorism and data accessibility on the Internet, journalists contend the Obama administration has been withholding not just on issues that pose a security threat but potential PR problems as well.
Sullivan notes the administration’s controversial drone strike program has not been forthcoming with the number of civilian casualties and amount of collateral damage caused by the targeted killing of terrorists.
“The administration’s accounting ... will arrive when it hardly matters anymore for holding this administration accountable,” Sullivan wrote.
The Washington Post columnist also chastised the president for being selective about which members of the press he will engage with.
Obama has innovated his media outreach by appearing in pop culture programs geared toward younger audiences and has set the record for most presidential interviews in history, but every sit-down is geared toward discussing a single topic and does not allow journalists to deeply probe the president on topics the White House does not want to discuss.
“More interviews, less accountability,” Sullivan concludes. “Feet kept safe from the fire.”
President Obama reignited resentment among the press during in March 2016, when he criticized how the 2016 presidential election was being covered by the press, which he chided for being satisfied with shallow questions.
CNN’s Jake Tapper, who has been a long-running White House correspondent since the beginning of Obama’s first term, politely slammed the president for hypocrisy.
“Many believe that Obama’s call for us to probe and dig deeper, and find out more has been made far more difficult by his administration, than any in recent decades, a far cry from assurances he offered as he first took office,” Tapper said of the president.
“Mr. President, with all due respect ... maybe, just maybe, you’re lecturing would be better delivered to your own administration,” Tapper concluded.