Journalists reacted with some skepticism to the White House's announcement on Wednesday that it was seeking to enact a new federal shield law to boost the legal protections for reporters.
The move came at a time when the Obama administration is facing unrelenting criticism from the media for the secret Justice Department probe into the Associated Press. When White House spokesman Jay Carney mentioned during a press briefing that President Obama had supported a shield law as a senator, NBC's Chuck Todd pointed out that Obama had helped kill the very measure he was now pushing to have reintroduced when it was proposed early in his first term.
Obama has also been facing down comparisons to Richard Nixon for his policies towards the media and whistleblowers.
All of which is to say that the White House's sudden reevaluation of its stance on a shield law was met with a raised eyebrow or two. A headline in the New York Times seemed to sum things up: "Under Fire, White House Pushes To Revive Media Shield Bill." BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski flatly called it "damage control."
Furthermore, as HuffPost's Ryan Reilly and Sam Stein pointed out, the bill the White House is seeking to revive included a broad national security exemption, raising questions about whether it would even have given the AP more protections.
Other reporters were wondering the same thing:
I don’t see how a shield law would have protected the AP. The WH would have just invoked national security exception.
— Dan Kennedy (@dankennedy_nu) May 15, 2013
In a statement, Sen. Chuck Schumer, the bill's chief backer, did not say that the AP would have been protected by it.
"At minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case," he said.