In a typical article published by NewsBusters, they were in classic form today, looking for something to complain about regarding anybody with the last name Obama. Contributing writer Lachlan Markay points out an article by The Daily Caller that found out a local paper in Northern California supposedly took out a passage that reflected poorly on First Lady Michelle Obama:
Just last week it was revealed that a San Francisco Chronicle reporter was booted from the White House press pool for the crime of recording an anti-Obama protest with her smartphone. Then today, the Pleasanton Weekly, a small newspaper in Pleasanton, California, revealed that the White House had asked that the paper remove a passage it felt reflected poorly on First Lady Michelle Obama.
And, amazingly, the paper obliged. It removed the passage, saying it didn’t want to make a “fuss“. The White House is grateful for the self-censorship, I’m sure.
After that predictably sarcastic article by the arrogant Mr. Markay, then came The Daily Caller making its case about what transpired regarding the local publications “censoring“:
In an email to The Daily Caller, Gina Channell-Allen, president of the Pleasanton Weekly in Pleasanton, California, said that her paper “received a call from the White House asking us to take out part of the story because it reflected poorly on the First Lady.”
The story in question was a soft feature about Marine One titled, “Inside Marine One, President Obama’s helicopter,” that ran in the paper on April 20. Pleasanton staffer Amory Gutierrez “didn’t get to ride in ‘Marine One,’” she wrote in her story, “but I did get the VIP tour and took photographs of the otherwise unseen aircraft.”
She also wrote a sentence that the White House thought made FLOTUS look snooty.
“Basically the reporter said that the First Lady didn’t speak to the pilots but acknowledged them by making eye contact,” Allen wrote in her email.
After that was an update from The Daily Caller with a response from the First Lady’s Press Secretary and another statement by Ms. Allen:
UPDATE: Katie McCormick Lelyveld, FLOTUS’ press secretary, wrote the following in an email: “Our office has never interacted with the Pleasanton paper, and not knowing the story existed, we never asked for such a line to be removed.”
Allen says she “complied” with the White House’s request “because it was not worth making a fuss over.”
She added, “I thought it was interesting, though, that the [White House] was concerned enough about image to contact a little weekly paper in Pleasanton.”
The White House communications office did not return requests for comment.
Allen said she emailed TheDC after reading about the San Francisco Chronicle’s recent spat with the White House communications office.
So that all seems very cut and dry, right? According to two far-right sources confirming the whole situation, the Pleasanton Weekly posted an article which was “mildly negative” about the First Lady, and the President of the newspaper removed it. Simple as that.
Hold it right there… there’s more! In addition to the response that Gina Channell-Allen made to The Daily Caller, she also made a statement in a chat forum on the newspapers’ website, responding to a question by a poster (emphasis mine):
The reporter, who was representing a sister publication, Danville Express, was contacted on April 25 by someone representing the White House, not the FLOTUS press office, notifying her that we needed to remove a line about a security procedure because having it in the story might endanger the President and First Lady. We are obviously going to comply with that and would be irresponsible not to.
He also mentioned taking out a line that could be misconstrued about the First Lady. It wasn’t going to change lives or destroy administrations by leaving it in or taking it out. It was extraneous and really added nothing to the story. Even journalists have to choose our battles. If it was something worth fighting for, we would have. It wasn’t. We made a decision that this wasn’t a battle we wanted to fight.
I sent what I thought was a personal email to a person who works for what I realize now is a questionable site. It wasn’t the whole story and I didn’t intend for that email to be printed or sensationalized the way it was. I was commenting on a piece that the blogger did about a Chronicle reporter being banned from covering Obama’s trip because she had tape-recorded some people heckling Obama.
I have made a couple observations that I want to share: First, I need to practice what I preach and check with whom I am sharing information. Second, the White House has a lot of people sifting through a lot of press. Third, people actually really care about the First Amendment and are outraged by anyone threatening freedom of speech.
I said in an earlier post that we – the Pleasanton Weekly and all media outlets – need to be transparent in the reasons we make the decisions we do. During my time as a journalist, I’ve only had three stories go nationwide; this one email has sparked more debate and comments than all three of those stories combined. While it’s been trying day, and I feel like I’ve been flogged, I am glad people want transparency. Demand it from ALL your news sources.
So, to start off, both NewsBusters and The Daily Caller made the embarrassing mistake from the get-go, claiming that the publication was the Pleasanton Weekly, when it was really their sister publication, the Danville Express, from the nearby city of Danville in Northern California. Both blogs also screwed up the fact that the individual who contacted the paper was a White House representative, not a press person for the First Lady.
Next, according to Ms. Allen, the passage from the article was removed because it “might endanger the President and First Lady“, and had nothing to do censoring anything “negative” about the First Lady. It had to do with not putting the Obama’s lives in danger. To be more specific, the line was taken out because it’s something that “could be misconstrued about the First Lady“. Neither of the far-right blogs cared to get their facts straight, instead claiming it was “negative” and that it could make her seem “snooty“. Ms. Allen also pointed out how it was “extraneous and really added nothing to the story” anyway.
Finally, Ms. Allen concluded her clarification by stating that the email she sent to The Daily Caller regarding the situation “was a personal email to a person who works for what I realize now is a questionable site. It wasn’t the whole story and I didn’t intend for that email to be printed or sensationalized the way it was.” So, in essence, The Daily Caller took her response out of context and made it into something it wasn’t, in regular far-right fashion. Learning that she had made an error, Ms. Allen stated “I need to practice what I preach and check with whom I am sharing information.“
It looks like another victim from the far-right propaganda machine learned their lesson, and hopefully will avoid having to do anything with them in the future. Give all the credit in the world to Ms. Allen for admitting her mistake.