Monday, May 4, 2009

Does the Press Show More Respect for Obama Than It Did for Bush?

There was a stir this weekend over a YouTube video that showed how journalists in the White House press room rose from their seats when President Barack Obama entered the room but remained seated when President Bush had entered the room. Conservatives saw it as evidence of not only disrespect to the former president, but its favoritism toward Obama.

CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller sees it more as a rookie mistake by members of the press corps who were in the front row. In his blog, Knoller writes today that there is a different protocol in the press briefing room than at an East Room news conference.

It’s a long-standing practice for reporters to rise when the president enters the East Room for a news conference, but that hasn’t been the case in the briefing room.

I checked with two colleagues who served as senior wire service reporters during the Bush Presidency and who, in matters of press protocol, the rest of us followed.

“The briefing room is always a more informal place,” says Steve Holland of Reuters.

But the principal reason reporters remained in their seats, he said, was not to block the shot of TV cameramen and still photographers in the back of the room who were trying to make a picture of the president’s walk-in.

No disrespect was intended for President Bush and to the best of my knowledge none was taken.

Tim Graham of seems to concur that the practice is to remain seated, but I'm not sure if he thinks this is just newfound respect for the office of president:
This could be a rather mild outbreak of old-fashioned politeness to the chief. But in my two years in the White House press corps, I never saw reporters in the informal all-business setting of the briefing room stand up to greet the president (unless we were already standing, of course.)

I also noticed that reporters and cameramen were not really comfortable participating in patriotic rituals like the Pledge of Allegiance in the Bush years in East Room ceremonies -- perhaps they equated patriotism with being a Bush supporter?

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