Tension Mounts Between White House and McClatchy

McClatchy is digging its heels in the sand on a story that claims the White House was not in touch with Iraqi officials on whether to leave remaining troops in Iraq before deciding to withdrawal.

The White House claims the story is false. McClatchy, meanwhile, is sticking firmly with McClatchy. The news service published a story Wednesday bearing the headline, “White House challenges story, but provides no facts to counter it.” In the piece, Washington Bureau Chief James Asher does not back down.

“We stand by our reporting. We have repeatedly asked White House officials for details on Mr. Obama’s and Mr. Biden’s communications with the Iraqi government. So far, they have declined to provide them. We await a response.”

While the White House declares President Obama and V.P. Biden were in talks with Iraqi officials on the matter, they have so far provided no concrete proof. White House Spokesman Tommy Vietor pointedly deflated the claim in the original McClatchy piece, saying, “Your story is totally wrong.” He said whoever prepared the embassy list, on which McClatchy is basing its story, “was not familiar with the full range of contacts.” During  a press gaggle Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called McClatchy’s claim “false” and “erroneous.” So far, Carney has not provided readouts of the calls. He says there has been one released call, and when pressed on if he would show proof of others, replied, “I don’t know.”

Possible outcomes: Carney could recite the list of contacts and effectively squash the story. Revealing such calls that weren’t announced would take coordination by Carney with others, including foreign policy types. If they exist, it’s possible they wouldn’t release them for a variety of reasons, including that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wouldn’t want it. McClatchy, if proven wrong, could continue with their overall theme and charge of aloofness. Either way, someone may be on thin ice.