White House: We will NOT discuss broken C-Span promise 

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to answer questions about the president's campaign commitment to hold health-care negotiations on C-Span. Gibbs said he had not seen a letter from C-Span's Brian Lamb to congressional leaders requesting the coverage and thus could not comment on it.

On Wednesday, Gibbs was asked again about the C-Span commitment. The story had gotten pretty big in the intervening time, and presumably Gibbs had had a chance to familiarize himself with it. So reporters tried for a second day to get him to comment on the president's commitment to holding televised health-care talks. Gibbs' answer? "We covered this yesterday." Gibbs referred reporters to the transcript of Tuesday's briefing and said, "The answer I would give today is similar."

But of course, he hadn't answered the question at all. Here is the transcript from the Tuesday briefing:

QUESTION: C-Span television is requesting leaders in Congress to open up the debate to their cameras, and I know this is something that the President talked about on the campaign trail. Is this something that he supports, will be pushing for?

GIBBS: I have not seen that letter. I know the President is going to begin some discussions later today on health care in order to try to iron out the differences that remain between the House and the Senate bill and try to get something hopefully to his desk quite quickly….

Later in that same briefing, a reporter raised the C-Span issue again:

QUESTION: Okay, just lastly, why can't you answer the C-Span question --

GIBBS: I did.

QUESTION: You didn't, because you said --

GIBBS: I said I hadn't seen the letter, which I haven't --

QUESTION: do you need to see a letter? I mean, this is something the President said during the campaign and he talked about he wants everything open on C-SPAN --

GIBBS: Dan asked me about the letter and I haven't read the letter.

QUESTION: Well, I'll just ask you about having it on C-Span --

GIBBS: I answered Dan's question and I answered this before we left for the break, Keith. The President's number-one priority is getting the differences worked out, getting a bill to the House and the Senate…

QUESTION: There are a lot of reasons not to do it on C-Span -- people could showboat. Does he regret making that statement during the campaign?

GIBBS: No.

Fast forward to Wednesday's briefing. Another question from another reporter:

QUESTION: During the campaign the President on numerous occasions said words to the effect of -- quoting one -- "all of this will be done on C-SPAN in front of the public." Do you agree that the President is breaking an explicit campaign promise?

GIBBS: Chip, we covered this yesterday and I would refer you to yesterday's transcript.

QUESTION: But today is today and --

GIBBS: And the answer that I would give today is similar to the one --

QUESTION: But there was an intervening meeting in which it's been reported that the President pressed the leaders in Congress to take the fast-track approach, to skip the conference committee. Did he do that?

GIBBS: The President wants to get a bill to his desk as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: In spite of the fact that he promised to do this on C-Span?

GIBBS: I would refer you to what we talked about in this room yesterday.

QUESTION: But the President in this meeting yesterday --

GIBBS: And I addressed that --

QUESTION: -- pressed for something that's in direct violation of a promise he made during the campaign.

GIBBS: And I addressed that yesterday.

Another reporter took up the questioning:

QUESTION: Well, does the President think it would be more helpful if this process were more transparent, that the American people could see --

GIBBS: Mike, how many stories do you think NBC has done on this?

QUESTION: Speaking for myself --

GIBBS: Just a guess.

QUESTION: That's not the issue. The issue is whether he broke an explicit campaign promise.

GIBBS: So the answer is --

QUESTION: I deal with the information that --

GIBBS: So the answer is hundreds, is that correct?

QUESTION: Right, but that's got nothing to do with it. I deal with the information, however much or little of it, there is. I'm saying would people benefit by having more information?

GIBBS: Have you lacked information in those hundred stories? Do you think you've reported stuff that was inaccurate based on the lack of information?

QUESTION: Democrats ran against the very sort of process that is being employed in this health care --

GIBBS: We had this discussion yesterday. I answered this yesterday. Is there anything --

QUESTION: But the President met with members of Congress in the meantime --

GIBBS: And he'll do so today.

QUESTION: -- and pressed them to --

GIBBS: Do you have another question?

And that was the end of that. If the public wants to know why President Obama didn't keep his pledge to hold televised health-care negotations, they'll have to look for answers elsewhere. The White House isn't talking.

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