When pundits fail as press critics. Or, paging Phil Bronstein

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

I traveled to Fox News studios in New York City yesterday for a report on the press' coverage of Obama. (It aired on Special Report last night.) And the producer who interviewed me asked about a column former San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein had written about how the press and Obama should 'get a room,' because the honeymoon affection was becoming gratuitous. And I noticed Fox News on Wednesday aired clips of a Bronstein interview where he made the same points; the press is going too easy on Obama.

But is that true? And what kind of proof did Bronstein come up with in his column to prove his point? Well, it turns out the very first example cited in his column doesn't withstand much scrutiny, and it seems Bronstein had to improve upon the facts to make it work for his press critique; to make it fit his narrative about a lapdog press corps for Obama.

Here's what Bronstein wrote:

When Barack Obama decided that questions from the German press about his trip agenda in that country were too pesky, he told the reporters, "So, stop it all of you!" He just wanted them to ask things he wanted to talk about. Well, what politico wouldn't want that?

OK, dad. We'll behave.

Bronstein's point was that when Obama traveled overseas, "pesky" reporters did what their American counterparts don't--ask tough questions--and so Obama barked back ("So, stop it all of you!") because he was only used to talking about what he wanted to talk about.

Slight problem, that's not how the scene played out in Germany with reporters. As was quite plain from the coverage at the time, rather than scolding the press, Obama was joking with reporters who laughed at his "stop it" comment. But Bronstein improved the story and pretended Obama had lashed out at reporters.

Here's the back story, as reported by ABC News on June 5: [emphasis added]:

At a joint press availability in Dresden, Germany, this morning, President Obama jokingly chastised the German press for playing up stories about alleged tensions between him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr. Obama was responding to a question from a German television reporter, who noted that there has been certain "mild, sometimes even wild speculation" about the president not leaving much time for a visit with Merkel on his way from Cairo, Egypt, yesterday, where he gave his major address to the Muslim world, to Normandy, France, tomorrow where he will join in the commemoration ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Some in the German press have suggested this constitutes a slight and is part of a history of tensions between the two leaders.

"I think your characterization of wild speculations is accurate -- they are very wild and based on no facts," President Obama said, with a smile...The president then jokingly scolded the German reporters to his left.

"So stop it, all of you," he said." I know you have to find something to report on, but we have more than enough problems out there without manufacturing problems."

It's a bit dubious when a pundit turns into a media critic and claims the press is falling down for Obama, yet the very first example the pundit points to as proof doesn't add up.

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