Politico: “Oh Noes! The Best Reporter on a Subject Got Called on!!!”

Michael Calderone is way out of line with his article bitching that Nico Pitney got called on at Obama’s press conference today.

In what appeared to be a coordinated exchange, President Obama called on the Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney near the start of his press conference and requested a question directly about Iran.

“Nico, I know you and all across the Internet, we’ve been seeing a lot of reports coming out of Iran,” Obama said, addressing Pitney. “I know there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?”

Pitney, as if ignoring what Obama had just said, said: “I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian.”


According to POLITICO’s Carol Lee, The Huffington Post reporter was brought out of lower press by deputy press secretary Josh Earnest and placed just inside the barricade for reporters a few minutes before the start of the press conference.

When I heard, before the presser, that Nico was hoping to pose a question from an Iranian, I knew some beltway idiot would bitch if the HuffPo got a question. I just thought the bitching would come from someone with a more consistent record of being a complete idiot than Calderone.

As to Calderone’s bitching, it’s out of line for several reasons. First, if I knew that Nico was hoping to ask a question from an Iranian, then chances are the people paid to know these things at the White House knew. What better tribute to democracy and free speech could the White House make than to allow this question to be posed to the President?

And, after all, one primary focus of the presser was Iran. There are few who would argue but that Nico’s reporting–his tireless compilation of news coming in from both traditional and citizen media–has been far and away the best minute-to-minute news on the Iranian crisis (to take nothing away from the people offering superb commentary and expertise, which I consider something different). Maybe the Politico’s media reporter has missed it, but Nico’s doing something pretty historic with his reporting on Iran. So even assuming the White House isn’t as up-to-speed as I am, how hard do you think it would have been for them to guess that Nico, who has been living and breathing the Iranian crisis since it started, would ask a question about Iran?

I mean, c’mon. To try to turn this into a scandal is to assume that both the White House and Politico itself are a lot stupider than I think they are.

Update: Calderone has updated his post–and, in fact, the folks paid to know this stuff at the White House did know this stuff!!

Deputy press secretary Bill Burton responds: "We did reach out to him prior to press conference to tell him that we had been paying attention to what he had been doing on Iran and there was a chance that he’d be called on. And, he ended up asking the toughest question that the President took on Iran. In the absence of an Iranian press corps in Washington, it was an innovative way to get a question directly from an Iranian."

Which means Calderone’s pout-rage amounts to a journalist complaining about free speech and those in power getting asked tough questions.

49 replies
  1. AZ Matt says:

    Just reading though the comments below the Calderone article and they are a bitchy conservative bunch. They need some cheese whiz with their whine.

    • Waccamaw says:

      Politico: they are a bitchy conservative bunch

      Quel surprise. I hate it that piece of garbage is given so much attention. :-(((

  2. Teddy Partridge says:

    Yes, this is the kind of Versailles gossip I would expect from Politico. Keep it up, boys.

  3. emptywheel says:

    Yeah, there is. A range of outlets have assigned seats in the briefing room (this was moved from the Rose Garden to tbe briefing room, which meant space was at a premium).

  4. Teddy Partridge says:

    They at Politico — and Michael Calderone specifically — are much stupider than we can ever imagine.

    • Mauimom says:

      I think Politico is such a useless site. I can never believe anyone reads it or cites it.

  5. Mary says:

    I’m not a big Obama lover, but if he said this:

    “Nico, I know you and all across the Internet, we’ve been seeing a lot of reports coming out of Iran,” Obama said, addressing Pitney. “I know there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?”

    before he called on Nico, then what’s the big deal?

    He made it plain that he was specifically going to someone he knew had been having internet communications with people in Iran and flat out said “guys, I want to take an Iranian originated quetion and I’m going to Nico to do that”

    It’s not like he just called without the lead in, he pretty much made it clear what he was doing. And it wasn’t exactly a softball question (is green your new favorite color), or statement of rhetoric back like we used to get with the Gannon questions, no “President Obama, how do you work with idiots like Republicans in Congress who think sending tweets about how oppressed they are is the same as being arrested and beaten by the Basiji?

    • emptywheel says:

      You know I had that, and then changed it.

      It seems like it can be “Few would argue but that Nico has been the best”


      “Few would argue that Nico hasn’t been the best”

      I think I’ll change it to option one.

      • ghostof911 says:

        Not going to argue if he has or hasn’t been the best. His dedication to this event has been outstanding. But where was this level of dedication here at home when our own national election was rigged in 2000? Nico’s getting a free pass because he’s stepping on no ones toes here in the HOMELAND. If he or someone displayed that same level of enthusiasm reporting on the 2000 election fraud, he or she would have been Paul Wellstone’d.

        • NorskeFlamethrower says:

          Citizen ghostof911:

          I worry aboutchu Citizen ghost…when Iranians are dyin’ in the streets and our President is cultivating the Iranian opposition and the blogosphere at same fuckin’ time, you are worried about the fuckin’ 2000 election??!! What the fuck…???

  6. WilliamOckham says:

    These people really are stuck in 6th grade recess mode. Calderone ought to be asking himself why nobody in the press asked that question.

  7. Mary says:

    OT but related – piece by Baer in Time summarizing some of Mousavi’s history (other than Shah related) esp vis a vis Lebanon.


    Indeed, Mousavi, Prime Minister from 1981 to 1989, almost certainly had a hand in the planning of the Iranian-backed truck-bombing attacks on the U.S. embassy in April 1983 and the Marine barracks in October of that same year. Mousavi, as my Lebanese contact reminded me, dealt directly with Imad Mughniyah, the man largely held responsible for both attacks. (Mughniyah was assassinated in Damascus last year.)

    Not related to who Obama calls on, or even the timely questions, but to the perspective overall. McCain et al really want the US to do more to support the election of someone who was involved in that attack? Along with support for people attempting to make their gov more transparent and accountable to them and to pursue some democratic reforms, it never hurts to keep the big picture hovering by hologram in the background. We don’t need to overly champion based on having a national media replication of Bush looking into Putin’s eyes and seeing his soul.

    You can’t blame Iranians for their options. But give that our best option was a Changling, it doesn’t hurt to be wary either.

  8. BoxTurtle says:

    I guess I don’t understand what the big deal is. The President calls on whom he pleases, when he pleases…with the possible exception of Helen Thomas.

    Presidents plant questions. Presidents call on people who they think will give them a question they like, while avoiding those with inconvienent questions.

    In this case, good question and good answer. The Journalism Gods are not displeased.

    Boxturtle (Tends to ignore whinging from Politico)

  9. masaccio says:

    For those who don’t want to watch the video, here is the Q & A:

    My colleague Nico Pitney was given the opportunity to ask a question at Obama’s press conference today that came directly from an Iranian. His question for the president was: “Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn’t that a betrayal of what the demonstrators there are working toward?”

    Well look, we didn’t have international observers on the ground, we can’t say definitively what exactly happened at polling places throughout the country. What we know is that a sizeable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, considered this election illegitimate. It’s not an isolated instance, a little grumbling here or there. There [are] significant questions about the legitimacy of the election. And so ultimately, the most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, not in the eyes of the United States. And that’s why I’ve been very clear, ultimately this is up to the Iranian people to decide who their leadership is going to be and the structure of their government. What we can do is to say unequivocally that there are sets of international norms and principles about violence, about dealing with peaceful dissent, that spans cultures, spans borders, and what we’ve been seeing over the Internet and what we’ve been seeing in news reports, violates those norms and violates those principles. I think it is not too late for the Iranian government to recognize that there is a peaceful path that will lead to stability and legitimacy and prosperity for the Iranian people. We hope they take it.

  10. Diane says:

    I got involved in that thread til I couldn’t take it anymore. Gave props to Nico for the work he has done, but it was like trying to enlighten a Glenn Beck audience – finally had to leave.

  11. AZ Matt says:

    Nico Pitney at Huff Po

    A few words about how this came about for those who are curious: as readers know, I’ve spent a lot of time writing and debating about the President’s reaction to the events in Iran. Last night, after emailing with a few people about Obama’s press conference and what he might say, I decided to throw it open to our readers. I received a call from White House staff saying they had seen what I’d written and thought the President might be interested in receiving a question directly from an Iranian.

    The White House didn’t guarantee that I would be able to ask a question. But I decided that if there was even a chance, I should try to reach out to as many Iranians as possible. With the invaluable help from some readers — Chas, Chuck, and other Iranian Americans I wish I could name because they deserve the credit — I was able to post a message in Farsi on Twitter and have my request for questions posted late last night on Balatarin. I ended up choosing the question I did because it was one of the consensus questions that many people had suggested.

  12. NealDeesit says:

    So, why doesn’t anybody remember this eerie foreshadowing of this incident from one of The Deciderer’s pressers?

    “Jeff, I know you and all across the Internet, we’ve been seeing a lot of your uncut eight inches,” Bush said, addressing Gannon. “I know there may actually be questions from male prostitutes who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?”

  13. yellowsnapdragon says:

    Maybe if Nico Pitney were a male prostitute from a dodgy rightwing blog who was unexplainedly approved for regular access to Presidential pressers and who regularly lobbed the president with a series of softball questions…

  14. prostratedragon says:


    Local TV station in South Carolina reports that a federal agent spotted Gov. Sanford boarding a plane in Atlanta, and though the report is not clear on when the sighting occurred, the implication is it was about the time Sanford went missing last week. …

  15. skdadl says:

    I wish this weren’t going to sound the way I know it will, but …

    I was kind of shocked by the question, and I would only give Obama 50 per cent for the answer. In what world does the POTUS “accept” or, I guess, “not accept” the results of an election in somebody else’s country? Do people not hear why a lot of the rest of us bristle immediately at the question?

    I realize that it was an Iranian asking the question, and my heart goes out to him/her — I can’t know where that question came from. But I do sort of react against the sentimental validation that it is getting in North America.

    What I object to in Obama’s answer is this:

    What we know is that a sizeable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, considered this election illegitimate. It’s not an isolated instance, a little grumbling here or there. There [are] significant questions about the legitimacy of the election.

    Ok: that has been my question for days. Is each of those things known? Actual percentages, and locations? If so, why do those who know the facts not publish them for us? Me, I still can’t figure out whether the reaction to the election “spans” Iranian society — how does Obama know that?

    I’m not there and I don’t know much except the history, but my doubts about the sentimental political narratives run deep. By sentimental narratives, I don’t mean the stories of those who have died, who’ve been wounded or imprisoned — none of that is sentimental, and I honour greatly anyone who strides out in defence of liberty. Sometimes minorities can and should win, if they begin to inspire others, and I haven’t lost all hope that that could happen.

    But from all I can tell, the election is now pretty much beside the point, especially to the best of the protestors. And the best of the protestors are being exploited from several directions, by a power-play within Iran (between Khamenei and Rafsanjani) and then … well, who knows.

    • Petrocelli says:

      Skdadl !

      If you have the stomach for it, watch the entire presser … now I know why my friends at FDL call Garrett, Chip Reid & Chuck Todd a bunch of d*ckwads !

      As POTUS, Obama has to be careful not to be a foil for the Iranian regime. They are already saying that he and the CIA are responsible for all these protests. I’m not saying they’re not right, but that line of “American interference” has kept many regimes in power by distracting protesters.

      I think Obama is handling this exactly right and Europe should take the lead in denouncing Iran’s regime … they have a great deal more goodwill in the region than Murkah.

      BTW, if any of you have questions for the Iranian people, a close friend of mine is there and might be able to answer them … authorities are closely monitoring all calls, SMSes, e-mails, etc. and subjecting “violators” to harsh treatment.

    • NorskeFlamethrower says:

      Citizen skdadl:

      See my response to gostof911 at #36…I know that our collective psychology in this country is conditioned to expect that our government will meddle in the internal politics of any country regardless of the consequences but take a breath and read your post…Obama has directed our response to this like Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philidelphia Philharmonic. Jesus, instead of tossing a dramatic polemic at the Iranian government and in the process isolating the masses in the streets of Tehran, Obama has encouraged the opposition while at the same time tryin’ ta direct public attention to the direct reporting from Iran bein’ telescoped through the blogosphere. The people of Iran are gunna work this out, they already have blood and bone in the battle, there is no turnin’ back for either side and for every death there will be a funeral and with every funeral there will be tens of thousands in the streets and twittering…we can only watch and listen and hope that our President can mobilize the rest of the world through the UN when the time is right!

      • skdadl says:

        Norske, I am honoured to be addressed as Citizen by you. I always love the way you set up your posts, and even when I disagree with you, I admire your commitment to republican virtue.

        Petro! @ 38. Many hugs, as always.

        Y’know, I did think that Obama had been handling this well, right up to that latest statement. But now I really want to know: what did he mean by “spanning Iranian society”?

        Petro, how can it be our job to internalize Obama’s political anxieties? Me, I’m close to flat out trying to write about Omar Khadr today. Obama is going to have to do without me, at least overnight. *wink*

        • Petrocelli says:

          Re. Obama’s comment – “What we know is that a sizable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, consider this election illegitimate. It’s not an isolated instance, a little grumbling here or there. There is significant question about the legitimacy of the election.”

          If he is hearing this straight from Iran, it means that there in not one group, faction or ideal represented by the protests … it is a sizeable segment of the populace who have had it with the regime and are demonstrating to bring about change. They are not deluded that Mossavi is their savior, but many see a big change in him over the past 20 years and are also using the election fraud to launch protests against the regime.

          The protests on Saturday had about 3 Million people, although not at one rally because the regime has set up barricades to prevent a repeat of Friday’s 9 Km long rally. People are protesting from their rooftops and what has incensed a lot more people and driven them to the cause is hearing that foreign mercenaries were brought in to subdue the protesters … Iranians are even more patriotic than Americans.

    • BMcGarth says:

      I absolutely agree with you the question was silly but for whatever reason some people have it in their minds the USA is all the world,nevermind our elections & integrity can’t stand side by side.

  16. nahant says:

    Calderone speaking out of his ass! SOP for them!
    I watched and thought WOW Nico was honored by the President by having him ask a Question from Iran!! Nico has been doing a great job over at HuffPro!

  17. orionATL says:

    [email protected]

    that is funny as hell.

    on the larger issue ew’s post raises:

    would it be too much to expect of well-trained professional journalists that they be so involved in their profession and so concerned about providing the nation with reliable and significant info

    that they not only recognized

    – the importance of the question to a key contemporary issue – american-iranian relations

    – the important symbolism of an american president listening to and responding to citizens from a country we are in conflict with


    – the inception of a new direction for journalism to take,

    but REJOICED at this latter oppoortunity for their profession; trhis expansion of their profession coming from the weblogs.

    calderone appears an ass, an ass whose motive is transparent – he is pissed because a member of a “rival” village got recognized rather than one from his own.

    personally, in addition to the diplomatic value of the american prez expressing interest in the opinions from another nation with which we are in conflict,

    i suspect the obama press team may see benefit to including reporters from other tribes than that of the frat-media traditionals.

    it’s called competition, michael.

    YOU haven’t seen much of it in your professional life (no, the electronic and print media don’t compete, they have merged incestuously),

    but that is changing – fast.

  18. serge says:

    Apropos of little else, I am so tired of the noisy honking of right-wing horns whenever they perceive a slight, or a ‘crazed’ left-wing lunatic who is telling the truth.

    And apropos of less than nothing, I’m reminded of an old New Yorker cartoon in which a barely pre-adolescent child is confronting his parents over his objections to eating broccoli.

    His words…”I say it’s spinach and to hell with it!”

    That’s the right-wing’s argument…”I say it’s X and to hell with it.”

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    For the MSM, it’s asking tough questions that’s a “set-up”, not asking about which breed of dog or brand of exercise tights the president prefers. Courtier doesn’t quite capture its essence, in the way that manana doesn’t quite capture the proverbial Irish sense of urgency.

  20. satyr9us says:

    I agree that the comment thread following the Politico article is a dismal scene, as threads there often are… but I don’t understand why Calderone’s article itself is described as “bitching”.

    He just noted that Obama’s calling on Pitney was unusual, and that it looked coordinated, and then noted in an update that both the White House and Huffington Post confirmed that it was in fact coordinated. We seem to all agree here that this is accurate information, and further that it was an appropriate move on Obama’s part… what’s “bitchy” about Calderone reporting on it?

    I’ve re-read the article looking for bias, and it looks like he’s presenting the information from a value-neutral standpoint. Just because the comment thread is flooded with birther-types howling scandal doesn’t mean that the article is promoting that view, does it?

  21. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Update: Calderone has updated his post–and, in fact, the folks paid to know this stuff at the White House did know this stuff!!

    Change we can believe in is evidently rather upsetting for Mr. Calderone.

    Meanwhile, back here in the 21st century in a world of real-time global communications…

  22. slouching says:

    Thank heaven Nico was there. The questions from Major(should be Private) Garrett, Chip what’s his face and Chuck Todd were embarrassingly dumb. Private Garrett apparently was ignorant of the fact that we don’t have official diplomatic relations with Iran. President Obama and we, the people, deserve better.

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