After editor blogs complaint, Obama releases transcript of off-the-record call with Des Moines Register

Des Moines Register | Poynter

In a blog post, Des Moines Register Editor Rick Green says his recent phone call with President Obama was an "incredibly informative exchange" in which the president "made a genuine and passionate case for our endorsement and for reelection." Unfortunately, he writes, the entire exchange was off the record at the White House's insistence. "No reason was given for the unusual condition of keeping it private," Green writes.

We relented and took the call. How could we not? It’s the leader of the free world on line one.

And as we weigh with our editorial board this critical decision about who to endorse, it was necessary for us to discuss the challenges confronting our state, nation and world with the president -– even when handcuffed by rules related to what could be shared.

After Green's blog post appeared, Obama released a transcript of the call to the Register. The release was "Without comment," the paper notes.

In his blog post, Green says he emailed the Obama campaign asking it to reconsider. He also says that it would be "petty and ridiculous" for the Register's editorial board to consider the off-the-record nature of the call in its decision about whom to endorse in the 2012 race.

Mitt Romney spoke to the Register's board for "a little under an hour" on Oct. 9; the paper posted the full audio from that interview.

At the beginning of this year, The Hill reported on a study by Towson University professor Martha Kumar, who found Obama had done more interviews but fewer question-and-answer sessions with the press than many of his predecessors. Obama also did more solo press conferences than the second President Bush but fewer than President Clinton and the first President Bush.

Obama is an avid consumer of news and has said he believes the impulse of journalists to believe the "truth lies somewhere in the middle" adds to the public's "cynicism about Washington generally." It's unclear how he believes an off-the-record conversation seeking a newspaper's endorsement dovetails with this critique.

In the last week, newspapers in swing states like Iowa have endorsed Obama and Romney each at about an equal rate. Six papers switched from a Democrat or Republican nominee in 2008 to the opposition party in 2012.

Related: Obama administration’s FOIA record worse than Bush’s

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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