White House Press Secretary Jay Carney seems to have broken tradition with the way he takes questions at the White House Press Briefings. In the past, a press secretary would take questions from everyone on the front row before moving on to other rows behind those media gods. In recent months, though, Carney is using the “jump around” method. You never know where he might land. He’ll take a few from the front row, then move to the back, then the middle. It’s a move that’s been going on for months, but yesterday, ABC’s Jake Tapper let Carney know that he was not a fan. The LAT reports that when Carney went to take a question from National Journal’s George Condon, Tapper was clearly flustered. Carney addressed Tapper’s concerns and said “Jake, I’ve been doing this for months.” Tapper responded with, “It’s annoying.” He continued by questioning Carney and asking “You just decide you’re going to break with decades of precedent?” Carney tries to respond that he’s “going to ensure that 49 people in these seats-” before Tapper interrupts and says “Okay, then take a question about bestiality, go for it. No, America wants to know about your position on bestiality.” This is a reference to the December 5th press briefing when Carney took a question from Lester Kinsolving from WorldNetDaily. On that day, Carney skipped Tapper and Kinsolving asked a question about a defense bill that repealed a ban on sodomy and sex with animals.
It should be noted that yesterday, George Condon went on to ask about the President’s response to the Wyden-Ryan compromise on the privatization of Medicare. Not bestiality. Is Tapper that into the so-called traditional ways of White House briefings? That anyone not on the front row is a clown? In all fairness, Jake’s not having the best week ever after being passed over for “This Week” for a second time.
Tapper tells FishbowlDC “First of all, let me say this is a stupid issue to be writing about, and if I’d known it would be covered because I said Jay’s new policy was ‘annoying,’ I would never have said anything. There are actually important issues out there, and who gets called on when is not one of them. I’m all in favor of Jay mixing it up and asking questions from reporters throughout the room. They often have better and smarter questions than I do. What I think a lot of TV reporters are surprised by is Jay’s decision to break with decades of precedent and to create a new policy of avoiding first going to the TV reporters who have been assigned those front row seats by the White House Correspondents Association. That said, this is silliness to be talking about, much less writing about.”
We reached out to Condon to see if he was annoyed by Tapper’s outburst. He tells FishbowlDC that Tapper came up to him to make sure he knew that he wasn’t talking about him specifically. Condon says “Jake is a good guy and a great reporter. I took no offense.”