White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest chastised a New York Times media columnist in a letter Tuesday for not acknowledging "the important and unprecedented steps the Obama administration has taken" to be the most transparent White House in history.
In his "Mediator" column on Aug. 28, Jim Rutenberg took presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to task for their respective antagonistic relationships with the press. Rutenberg wrote of Clinton, who has gone more than eight months without giving a press conference, that her potential administration could be even more secretive than the Obama administration, "with its abysmal record on fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests and its record of prosecuting whistle-blowers who have shared national security information with the press."
Earnest took exception and fired back in a Letter to the Editor posted Tuesday, boasting about Obama’s availability to the media and fretting that if journalists did not praise his transparency, no one would:
President Obama, as a matter of policy, invites White House journalists to cover his formal remarks at fund-raisers, even when they are held in a private home. Previous presidents have granted, at best, intermittent access to such events.
The Obama administration has also proactively released more than 180,000 data sets on a federal government website named, appropriately enough, Data.gov. This means that reporters and citizens have access to mind-boggling amounts of data–that they may not even have known existed–without having to formally request it.
If journalists don’t acknowledge steps that the Obama administration has taken to strengthen transparency, then who will? Leading the fight for government transparency means confronting politicians who face intense political pressure on narrow, short-term interests and pressing them to prioritize transparency, too, even when it’s politically inconvenient–especially when it’s politically inconvenient. In this regard, impartial journalists are advocates.
In conclusion, Earnest asked, "If President Obama’s government transparency effort is not even noted by The Times’s media columnist, then why would future presidential candidates make it a priority?"
The New York Times is not the only outlet to criticize Obama’s poor record on transparency, however, in spite of the president’s claim that he is running the "most transparent administration in history." CNN’s Jake Tapper ran a segment in June slamming the White House for showing "disdain for the public" over an announcement of not releasing Clinton emails about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
ProPublica also posted an article in March on Obama's "failure" to make good on his FOIA promises.