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Steve Clemons

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Why Didn't the White House Put Out Obama Gay Rights Speech?

Posted: 10/11/09 10:57 AM ET

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Last evening at the Washington Convention Center, President Barack Obama spoke before a crowd of 3,000 at the 13th Annual Human Rights Campaign dinner.


The event was covered live not only on C-Span but ran live on CNN and was covered in full by MSNBC. This was huge -- an event committed to ending discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people ran live through two of the most important news and policy networks in the country. That is change.

But guess what? When it comes to White House internal priorities, Bo the Dog gets higher billing than the president articulating a human rights agenda before a GLBT audience.

The White House, thus far, has nothing about the President's speech on its main site. Nothing at "Speeches and Remarks."

And even on the official White House Blog, there is a suspicious gap between an entry yesterday titled "Happy Birthday Bo!" and a one-minute-past-midnight posting on the President's weekly address on health care.

President Obama said to the assembled, powerhouse crowd of gay Americans, Tipper Gore, the cast of Glee, Matthew Shepard's parents -- Dennis and Judy, Lady Gaga, Frank Kameny, Office of Personnel Management Chief John Berry, US Ambassador designate to New Zealand David Huebner, and others:

I'm here with you in that fight. My commitment to you is unwavering.

Great words from the president. Obama acknowledged those who feel that he has not yet done enough.

You can watch the speech here on MSNBC, but you can't read those words on the White House website -- at least not yet.

What's the issue here? Why is this Obama public statement being treated differently from other major statements he makes?

Last night at 5:30 pm, I called White House press and asked to make sure that I got an emailed copy of the remarks which would probably be time embargoed. I left email and phone number as the phone recording requested, but there was no follow up.

I ran into Brian Bond, the capable Deputy Director of White House Public Liaison, before Obama's speech last night and was told that we would get the speech and not to worry.

Thanks to C-Span and MSNBC, folks can watch the speech -- so it's not completely out of public view, and the White House did distribute the "pool reporting" on Obama's 25 minutes at the HRC Dinner in which he reported that he had really made it as the opening act for Lady Gaga.

But on a serious level, a speech of this magnitude should be distributed to the media and made available to the public in the same timely way that other Presidential speeches are. We who were writing about this should have received an embargoed copy of the remarks "as prepared," and then a follow up set of remarks "as given."

But nothing yet on the White House web page -- and nothing in my in box about Barack Obama's commitment to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and his commitment to pass an exclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which were hight points of his remarks.

This is meant to be a friendly critique -- but while the gay community at the HRC dinner was enormously enthusiastic that Barack Obama was the first president since Bill Clinton in 1997 to speak at its annual event, we don't want the important remarks the President gave hidden so as not to make the weekend news cycle.

Note to White House Communications office, please get the speech on the White House website and distributed to the media and American public.

Obama's remarks were important.

I'll be watching my inbox.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note

Update: The White House has finally distributed to a few people President Obama's speech. You can read here.

 

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