Phil Bronstein, a contributing editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, revealed in his column “Bronstein at Large” Friday that Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci has been dismissed from the White House Press Correspondents’ Association’s pool of Bay Area print journalists. She was dropped from the pool because of a video she posted last week of protesters at a fundraiser for President Obama.
Last Thursday, a group of anti-war protesters, disgruntled over the Obama administration’s treatment of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning, interrupted a speech from the president with a self-penned song. The song highlighted Manning’s treatment in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. (he’s since been moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he has allegedly received better treatment), before ending with the lines, “We paid our dues; where’s our change?” in three-part harmony. Marinucci’s video of the incident is below:
The group reportedly paid nearly $80,000 for the chance to sing their song to President Obama. Bronstein contends that it was the video that did Marinucci in, leading an embarrassed and angry White House to drop her from the press corps.
Buried in Bronstein’s column is the fact that the White House did arguably have legitimate reasons for dismissing Marinucci from the press pool:
The White House Press Correspondents’ Association pool reporting guidelines warn about “no hoarding” of information and also say, “pool reports must be filed before any online story or blog.” While uploading her video probably was the best way to file her report, Carla may have technically busted the letter of that law.
Still, Bronstein points out that the dismissal was a decision handed down by the administration of a president who was elected on promises of transparency and commending whistleblowers. Bronstein makes much of the fact that the Obama campaign prided itself on being plugged in to new technology and is paradoxically punishing a reporter for using technology. The larger issue, however, appears to be that transparency sticking point.
CBS News’ Mark Knoller has decried the limited access afforded to the press when it comes to Obama fundraisers like the one in San Francisco. Although the bylaws of the White House Press Correspondents’ Association state that print reporters can take pictures and video while on duty, the fundraiser at the center of the controversy was technically closed to dedicated video and audio coverage. Such limitations on press coverage have been the case with many recent Obama fundraisers, a fact that Knoller challenged White House Press Secretary Jay Carney with as not being a “consistent” policy.
The news follows last month’s high-profile incident in which Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers was kept in a supply closet for the duration of a Florida fundraiser at which Vice President Biden was the guest of honor. At the time, a Biden spokesperson apologized not for blocking press access to official events, but for the “lack of a better hold room.”