NEW YORK -- Shortly after Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro interrupted President Barack Obama's remarks on changes in immigration policy Friday, Editor-in-Chief Tucker Carlson suggested to The Huffington Post that the reporter's actions were similar to those of former White House correspondent Sam Donaldson during the Reagan years.
In a later official statement, Carlson again mentioned Donaldson when taking issue with ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer dismissing Munro as a "heckler."
“I don’t remember Diane Sawyer scolding her colleague Sam Donaldson for heckling President Reagan," Carlson said. "And she shouldn’t have. A reporter’s job is to ask questions and get answers."
But Donaldson, remembered for his aggressive questioning during the Reagan years and for sparring with White House press secretaries as an ABC News correspondent, rejected the comparison to Munro.
"I like Tucker (let all flowers bloom) but I really resent his trying to tie his reporter’s actions to mine," Donaldson wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. "He knows better."
In the email, Donaldson continued:
Never once did I interrupt a president in any way while he was making a formal statement, a speech, honoring awardees or in any other way holding the floor. Yes, almost always when he was finished in the Rose Garden or in the Briefing Room or at a photo opportunity with other world leaders I tried to question him (only rarely was it a shout on the rope line, more often a more normal tone of voice) and other reporters of course did the same thing along with me.
What this man did yesterday is something new, to me wrong and unusual. I think it is probably the result of the growing incivility of the times, the competition among reporters and news organizations to be noticed not only for the work product but for the theatrics of the gathering…and there is one more factor, let’s face it: Many on the political right believe this president ought not to be there – they oppose him not for his polices and political view but for who he is, an African American! These people and perhaps even certain news organizations (certainly the right wing talkers like Limbaugh) encourage disrespect for this president. That is both regrettable and adds, in this case, to the general dislike of the press on the part of the general public.
For Tucker Carlson to say that he would if he can give this man a raise for this rude attempt to interrupt the president is reflective of what I’ve said above and, to me, lowers my opinion of Tucker.
Numerous political journalists quickly criticized Munro for his outburst during Obama's prepared remarks, including on Fox News, where Carlson is a contributor. Fox News host Chris Wallace said the interruption was "outrageous" and different than the way Donaldson did his job in the 1980s.
"I covered Ronald Reagan for six years with Sam Donaldson," Wallace said. "We used to scream our lungs out asking questions, but we always waited until the president, any president, had finished speaking. The idea that you would interrupt the president in the middle of prepared remarks and shout a question, I don’t think the guy should be allowed back in the White House on a press pass, and my guess is he won't be."
Munro, who serves as the Daily Caller's White House correspondent, said in a statement that he "timed the question believing the president was closing his remarks, because naturally I have no intention of interrupting the President of the United States."
The Daily Caller
Patrick W. Gavin
Rep. Keith Ellison