Obama-ShhhYesterday Rick Green, the editor of The Des Moines Register, and Laura Hollingsworth, the newspaper’s publisher, had an opportunity to interview President Barack Obama on the condition that it was off-the-record.  Obama spokesperson Jen Psaki described the call as a “personal check in with a publisher and an editor.”

Rick Green posted a blog post lamenting the White House decision (made officially, not by the campaign):

But despite at least 28 campaign stops and 11 days in our state, we never could convince his [Obama’s] team to carve out a few moments for our editorial board –- in our office, on the trail or even in a barn somewhere in Iowa.

Which takes me back to Monday afternoon’s call from the White House, inviting us to chat with President Obama this morning.

It was a “personal call” to the Register’s publisher and editor, we were told. The specifics of the conversation could not be shared because it was off-the-record.

Of course, we immediately lobbied his campaign staff in Des Moines for a formal, on-the-record call. We were told it was not their decision; it came from the White House. We requested that the White House be asked to reverse course so whatever the president shared with us could be reviewed by voters and our readers.

No reason was given for the unusual condition of keeping it private.

Their experience with Mitt Romney was quite different.  An hour-long on-the-record interview with the editorial board.  The only thing he asked was that it not be videoed, but the audio was recorded.  After pressure was applied the White House relented and released a transcript of the interview for publication.

Some questions and thoughts…

  • I’ve had off-the-record meetings with candidates and politicians before, but never in my capacity as editor of CaffeinatedThoughts.com it has usually been at different events and fundraisers.  On behalf of American Principles Project I had, with several others, an off-the-record meeting with former Governor Tim Pawlenty where he was given the option of being on or off the record.  His campaign manager chose off the record which I believe still to this day was a mistake.
  • Having an interview with a newspaper or some other news site without it being on-the-record is a colossal waste of time for the newspaper/news site.  I can’t think of why you would conduct an entire interview like that.  What would be the point?  The Des Moines Register looks to make an endorsement, but they can’t refer to their interview with the candidate?  Bogus.  I made it clear before I made an endorsement that an on-the-record interview was a requirement (I had the ability and enough pull to expect that prior to the Iowa Caucus, in the general election not so much, but The Register does).  I wasn’t going to make an endorsement before meeting with a candidate and personally vetting them.  I certainly wouldn’t make it public without my readers being able to see the fruit of that vetting.
  • Rick Green went out of his way to state this interview wouldn’t hurt him and that it being off-the-record wouldn’t impact their endorsement decision.  I would be shocked if they endorsed Mitt Romney, but already it seemed to me that they were making an excuse for the President.
  • Also when he would go on-the-record on with MTV and Jay Leno later this week this decision seems odd.  Why would they not want to go on the record for a paper in a swing state?
  • When they announced that the White House had released the transcript of the interview…. does that mean they released The Des Moines Register to publish their own transcript or that they provided the transcript to The Des Moines Register?  If it is the latter that seems really hinky.

So expect an Obama endorsement to be forthcoming from The Des Moines Register.

  1. The Des Moines Register is run by Gannett which happens to be owned by Bain. They don’t have a great track record with their endorsements. I wouldn’t look favorably on it. The last Republican was Nixon who lost after one endorsement and won having another. The register’s editorial board that debated on the endorsement were Publisher Laura Hollingsworth, who has final say, editor Rick Green, Opinions editor Randy Evans and writers Rox Laird and Andie Dominick. It appears that there were some that opposed the endorsement of Mitt as it was stated that not all agreed, but Laura Hollingsworth has the final say. It appears she chose Mitt as did Green. They did so because they are Romney supporters and were also peeved at the President because he didn’t give them an interview until recently and then it was off-the- record. It was childish for them to basically throw a temper tantrum because the president snubbed them at first. So they got back at him by not endorsing him. Rick Green’s blog about this issue is available online.

    1. First they didn’t state who was for or against the endorsement, but I would be shocked if Andie Dominick was in favor of the endorsement. Laura Hollingsworth however must have been in favor of it or it wouldn’t have happened. Second this meme that is going around that Bain owns Gannett is simply false – I checked. Here is what I found:

      “The Des Moines Register is in fact owned by Gannett.

      Gannett did enter a contract with WSI in 2012.

      WSI is owned by the Weather Channel.

      The Weather Channel is owned by NBC Universal.

      NBC Universal, the Blackstone Group, and Bain Capital do have a consortium.

      Also, according to the New York Times, Mitt Romney still profits from Bain Capital although he left there almost 13 years ago.”

      This “contract” with WSI is for the Weather Channel to do their weather, it isn’t ownership. Also being in a consortium does not indicate ownership. This is just a big reach. It’s ridiculous. Also all of this took place after Romney left Bain. The profits he received is likely from companies he invested in prior to leaving, not after he left so his receiving profits proves nothing.

      Third, you obviously didn’t read my post because it is about the interview, not the endorsement so I didn’t need you to inform me about Rick Green. Fourth, while the interview may have influenced how they endorsed we don’t know that for sure, that is pure conjecture.

      Fifth – the DMR endorsement won’t be seen as negative by those who are undecided.

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