Jay Carney said he never lies in his capacity as White House press secretary at a Friday scholarship lunch hosted by the White House Correspondents’ Association:
JAY CARNEY: So I don’t have these moments of crisis very much. Credibility’s enormously important for press secretaries. All of the predecessors, my living predecessors, I spoke with all of them before I took this job. I knew all of them, already. Whether they served a Republican president or a Democratic one, they all talked about the need to maintain your credibility. Which means, when I go and stand up in front of the podium, in front of the White House press corps, I never lie. I never say something that I know is not true. That means when I don’t know the answer to something, I say I don’t know and I’ll take that question, that means that when I—which is often the case, I know more than I can say—I answer it in a way that is truthful without obviously betraying the things that I can’t say for national security reasons or other reasons. But that’s—it’s a fundamental principle of doing the job that, for the folks who cover a president, they have to have some faith–substantial faith—that while they know I can’t say everything, and those who work for the president can’t say everything, what we are saying is true.
Carney has made a number of questionable statements as press secretary, however.
Carney told reporters in April that the president had never argued the Buffett Rule would solve the country’s deficit problems. But when the Buffett Rule was first introduced in September, President Obama claimed the tax would “stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade.”
Following a report that Hilary B. Rosen, the Democratic consultant who said Ann Romney had “never actually worked a day in her life,” had visited the Obama White House 35 times, Carney told reporters he personally knew three people named “Hilary Rosen.” Rosen herself said she was the only Hilary Rosen she had met before.
Carney also battled this month with Fox News reporter Ed Henry and CBS News reporter Norah O’Donnell after he claimed the president had not said it would be an “unprecedented” step for the Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare:
ED HENRY: In his original comments he did not draw out that caveat. He just said the whole thing would be unprecedented.
JAY CARNEY: That’s not what he said, Ed, and that’s certainly not what he meant. It was clear to most folks who observe this and understand what is at issue here.
NORAH O’DONNELL: Jay, that’s not true. The president said on Monday: “It would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” It took him until yesterday to talk about the commerce clause and on an economic issue—there are two instances in the past 80 years where the precedent, where the Supreme Court has overturned stuff—U.S. vs. Lopez and U.S. vs. Morrison. These are very specific legal issues. It’s not evident to everybody.
CARNEY: Well, it may not be evident to you. It is clear that the president was talking about matters like this that involve the commerce clause.
Last year, Carney told reporters that Obama was never against signing statements except when George W. Bush abused them–but Obama had come out against signing statements in 2008 while running for president.