Richard Wolffe, a former Newsweek reporter who wrote a very favorable book about President Obama’s 2008 campaign, is getting special treatment from the White House according to a Politico story. And according to Examiner White House correspondent Julie Mason, Wolffe was even allowed into Obama’s health care summit, which could barely accommodate the pool.
In a catalogue of the various grievances, members of the press express exasperation with the administration’s insistence on providing access to sympathetic voices, like Wolffe and the New York Times, while limiting contact with others.
Our own White House correspondent confronted Wolffe about the problem. From Politico:
Another event that riled many in the press corps took place March 20. The Washington Examiner’s Julie Mason confronted former Newsweek correspondent Richard Wolffe, author of a highly favorable book about the Obama campaign, when he attempted to join the White House pool on the Saturday before Congress’s big health care vote.
“You’re not in the pool,” Mason recalled telling Wolffe. “You shouldn’t be joining.” Mason said Wolffe claimed that he was there courtesy of “a special invitation from the Obama administration.” Wolffe is working on a second book on the Obama administration.
“Are you working for them officially now?” shot back Mason.
“The White House wants their friend to be in the pool and we don’t know what recourse we have,” Mason later told POLITICO. “It’s just completely unfair to the press corps and flies in the face of the concept of a free press.”
Wolffe’s special access in light of a second book would make him a sort of unofficial White House hagiographer. In fact, Columbia Journalism Review ran a review of Wolffe’s first book, “Renegade,” by Jamie Kirchick titled, “A Lapdog in Wollfe’s Clothing.”
There seemed to be no shortage of staffers at [Newsweek, Wolffe's former employer] willing to speak ill of their former colleague, whom they accused (without attribution, of course) of whisking around the country on Newsweek’s dime while saving his best material for his recently released (and bestselling) tome. But the most telling part of Smith’s story was the way he described how the book came to fruition. For reasons that will soon be made obvious, Obama decided that among the many reporters assigned to cover him, Wolffe would be the one to whom he would grant exclusive access for the purposes of what would effectively be an authorized campaign book. Obama, Smith writes, “essentially assigned the book” to Wolffe. Teacher has reason to be pleased.
And then there’s this:
Still don’t believe that Wolffe is in the tank for Obama? Just take a look at the Acknowledgements. There, he thanks the “O-Team,” which consists of Michelle Obama, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, and a variety of other aides. First among his “surrogate family at MSNBC,” whom he applauds for “your talent and courage, your good humor and support,” is Keith Olbermann. (During the campaign, Wolffe made regular appearances on “Countdown,” playing Stepin Fechit to the bullying host.) He refers to Maureen Dowd as “our very own Dorothy Parker in red cowboy boots.”
The purpose of a pool is so that all papers get equal access — including smaller papers that are not the New York Times. When the White House marginalized Fox News, other reporters, such as ABC’s Jake Tapper, stood up for Fox. The flipside is when a reporter gets favorable treatment. It’s good to know this is raising people’s hackles — it’s unfair no matter what side you’re on.