WASHINGTON -- The White House Correspondents Association has decided not to punish a reporter who repeatedly interrupted President Barack Obama in the middle of a Rose Garden speech last month.
During a board meeting late last month, the notes from which were emailed to WHCA members on Tuesday, WHCA leaders concurred that while Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro was out of line when he interrupted the president twice during a June 15 Rose Garden event, his actions don't warrant official action.
Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry, WHCA's incoming president, told the group he didn't believe the role of the board "was policing journalists," according to the meeting notes. He said he did have concerns "about decorum," though, and that it was wrong to interrupt the president.
Henry said he spoke to Tucker Carlson, the editor in chief of the the right-leaning Daily Caller, about the incident. Carlson later sent a letter to the WHCA board highlighting that there haven't been any complaints about Daily Caller reporters when they cover pooled press events, which reporters are assigned to cover by the WHCA. The event that Munro interrupted was an open press event.
Carlson's letter reads:
To the Correspondents' Association:
The Daily Caller has been part of the in-town pool rotation for more than two years. During that time I'm not aware of any complaints about the behavior or coverage of our reporters while serving in the pool. We understand that the purpose of the pool is to serve the press corps at large, and we take that responsibility seriously. We're grateful to be part of it.
editor in chief, The Daily Caller
Ultimately, the WHCA leaders agreed that "there was little interest in official censure or action among board members," so attendees moved onto other topics.
Julie Mason of Sirius XM Radio, who serves as WHCA's Secretary, told The Huffington Post that the board members felt that it's simply "not our job to be hall monitors."
"We don't police other reporters," she said. "It's not our job to be hall monitors. We have no written code of conduct that he violated, and we don't want one. Where does it end? Enforcing a dress code? A limit on questions? Don't like the cut of your jib? This wolf pack has its own code. I seriously hope there won't be another incident like this one, and I doubt there will be."
To be clear, the WHCA isn't responsible for controlling reporters' access to White House events, and it doesn't have the authority to revoke press credentials. That responsibility falls to the White House and Secret Service. Instead, the WHCA is responsible for representing the press corps in helping to facilitate reporting on the president. The WHCA also sets up the White House pool rotation schedule, which is when reporters take turns covering the president at off-site events and feed news updates to the rest of the press corps.
Still, the WHCA board could have pulled the Daily Caller out of the White House pool rotation as punishment for Munro's actions, but they opted not to.
White House officials have been mum on whether they are considering yanking Munro's credentials. Their reluctance to take action may stem from concerns that Munro would be hailed as a hero by conservatives, who endorsed the message he was shouting at the president during the event.
Obama's speech was about immigration and Munro interrupted twice with questions including, "Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?”
"It was discourteous," WHCA president Caren Bohan told The Huffington Post at the time. "It's not the way reporters who cover the White House conduct themselves."
The Daily Caller
Patrick W. Gavin
Rep. Keith Ellison