A YouTube clip purporting to demonstrate -- through press room etiquette -- that the White House Press Corps has a greater level of fundamental respect for President Barack Obama than his predecessor has been making its way around the internet. In the video, the viewer is offered a side-by-side comparison between Obama's interruption of last week's press briefing to announce David Souter's retirement and another instance in which President George W. Bush entered the briefing room. In the former, the press corps stand up. In the later they remain seated. Here, you can watch for yourself:
I was inclined to be skeptical of this claim, since a single moment between Bush and the press corps in an eight year Presidency does not paint an accurate picture of their relationship. As it turns out, the comparison is pretty unfair, and you can take the word of someone who should know -- CBS News' Mark Knoller:
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.
Of the spontaneous display of standing up last week, Knoller insists that it was "a sign of respect for the president, but not one of disrespect for his predecessor," adding, "It was President Obama's first time at the briefing room lectern since taking office and for some new members of the White House Press, it was their first time seeing a president enter the room as well."
[hat tip: Jake Tapper]
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