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Take Obama at His Word? Which One — and When?

June 5, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

In a somersault of a speech, President Barack Obama, sounding like he did when he first ran for the Oval Office, recently declared that “a free press is also essential for our democracy. That’s who we are” (“Obama, in Nod to Press, Orders Review of Inquiries,” The New York Times, May 24).

He subsequently ordered a review of his Justice Department’s subpoena of the phone records of Associated Press reporters and editors during an investigation of national security leaks. This, of course, affects any of us who care about a free press.

“I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” the president orated.

It seems there are at least two Obamas — one who is wary of press disclosures of any leaks from the White House, and another who supports freedom of the press.

Even those Americans who still trust the president must have been jarred by his choice of who would conduct this review: Attorney General Eric Holder, who oversaw the Justice Department’s undermining of press freedom.

The New York Post’s Michael A. Walsh reminds us of what my First Amendment hero, Justice Hugo Black, once said: “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government” (“The ‘Criminal’ Press,” Walsh, New York Post, May 23).

Even more jarring to continuing admirers of Obama, as well as his rising number of unbelievers, were the ground rules laid out for those representatives of major news outlets who were invited to privately discuss the proceedings with the attorney general.

Dig this: The meetings, concerning the administration’s government violations of the First Amendment, were to be “off the record.”

In other words, you citizens are not entitled to know what was said. How could a journalist, a member of what constitutionalists used to call “The Fourth Estate,” attend such a gathering, only to be utterly silenced?

Refusing to attend the meetings out of self-respect were the AP (of course), CBS News, Fox News, CNN, The New York Times and the New York Post.

So what are some of the news organizations that went, thereby agreeing to classify their reactions in accordance with the very government they were investigating?

The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and ABC News, which, in an ironic bow to the First Amendment, “would press for the meeting to be held on the record” (“Fox News, other media outlets refuse off-record meeting with Holder,” FoxNews.com, May …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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