Yesterday I posted an item called "Obama's Revenge: New Yorker Reporter Banned From Press Plane For Overseas Trip." It was based on this excerpt from a Politico piece by Mike Allen:
Forty journalists, including such leading correspondents as Dan Balz of The Washington Post, will be aboard his plane for next week's swing through Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and England.
The campaign received 200 requests for press seats on the plane.
Among those for whom there was no room was Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent of The New Yorker. The campaign, which was furious about the magazine's satirical cover this week, cited space constraints in turning him away.
(You may have heard that last week's New Yorker cover caused a stir.)
Anyhow: My takeaway was that the Obama campaign had deliberately snubbed Lizza as payback. Some agreed. Some disagreed. Some really disagreed, and you can find many of them in the comments section. I read, reflected, changed the headline and added an update, which I've reprinted below:
UPDATE: Many of the comments have objected to the suggestion that Lizza was "banned" from the plane, saying that inference took the conclusion a step too far. It's a fair point, so I have changed it to "excluded" in the headline above to more strictly describe the situation.
The quote that the post is based on, from Mike Allen at the Politico, states three facts: That Lizza was excluded from the plane, that the Obama camp was "furious" at the New Yorker cover, and that the campaign had cited space constraints for the exclusion. My piece was based on the conclusion that the decision was a result of that anger over the cover, and went from there. This is not a proven fact — indeed an entirely separate reason was cited by the Obama campaign — and I thought that was made clear but should have stated that this was my conclusion (shared by others here, here and here). I also should have provided more of a basis for it, namely that Lizza has been out front in covering Obama for years, not only for the New Yorker (see also here) but for the New Republic (see here), GQ (see here) and the Atlantic, in Obama's first national profile (see here). He's also been closely covering the campaign trail more generally (see here and here and here). Of course there is an argument that, if 200 journalists applied for 40 spots, the exclusion could well have been legitimate; I feel that Lizza's long record of coverage militated strongly in favor of inclusion, and I should have added a paragraph to that effect.
Either way, this piece was based on my conclusion, and I thought that was apparent, but I am happy to make that explicit in this update. My reaction to Allen's comment was similar to my reaction when John McCain excluded the New York Times from the group of publications permitted to review his medical records — that it seemed unusual, and pointed. The upshot remains the same: Retribution for unfavorable coverage is a chilling thing to contemplate. Political campaigns are hyper-aware of the signals they send, and where that is one, I think it merits mention.
As usual, after I wrote my original piece I read other people who said it better, and in fewer words, like Ryan Tate at Gawker and Megan McArdle at the Atlantic, plus former Obama New Hampshire volunteer Bartholemew Motes here. He emailed me directly after reading my post, and had such good things to say that I enticed him away from studying for the bar exam and into HuffPo's procrastinatory embrace. Now that's user-generated content for ya!
Anyhow, thanks to all who commented — I'm always happy to clarify, update, and add in some more orange links. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to write something that has nothing whatsoever to do with the New Yorker. Hooray!
Photo courtesy of Lynn Sweet, who's got some great shots (and reporting!) from the trip.
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