January 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm EDT | by Kevin Naff
Obama cheapens his office with YouTube interview stunt
Glozell Green, YouTube, gay news, Washington Blade

YouTube creators GloZell Green, Hank Green and Bethany Mota pose for a selfie with President Barack Obama. (Image via White House YouTube channel)

President Obama’s decision to grant interviews to three YouTube “creators” after the State of the Union address in lieu of sitting down with actual journalists diminishes his standing.

At a time of grave international security threats and terrorist attacks, Obama is seen sitting down to an interview with a woman wearing green lipstick. He couldn’t be bothered to send a senior representative to the recent Paris demonstrations against terror, but he has time for this?

The sorry spectacle was a cute commercial for Google and YouTube but it’s a stunt that should be beneath the commander in chief.

The president was grilled with such urgent questions as: “What TV show do you watch?” “What did you want to be growing up?” And “If you had any super power, what would it be?” This makes President Clinton’s saxophone-playing appearance on Arsenio Hall look downright regal by comparison.

In one exchange with GloZell Green, Obama used the tired and insulting expression “lifestyle choice” to describe LGBT people. A real journalist would have followed up to ask if the president views homosexuality as a “choice.” No such luck here. But at least Green got a hug from the president.

What’s especially galling is that in six years in office, Obama has never taken a single question from the Washington Blade, a 45-year-old award-winning news source that is a member of the White House Correspondents Association. We have a reporter in the White House briefing room every day, who is also a member of the in-town pool rotation. Obama himself even promised me in 2009 that he would break with the anti-gay traditions of the White House communications office and finally sit down for an interview with the Blade; we’ve had a credentialed reporter in the briefing room since the Reagan era yet never interviewed a sitting president.

He’s never honored that promise to me, yet finds time for silly interviews with flash-in-the-pan comedians and YouTube “sensations.” Maybe it’s sour grapes. Maybe I’d feel differently about these displays if Obama spent more time engaging with real journalists and answering the tough questions. Obama is averaging just 1.7 news conferences per month, according to the American Presidency Project, compared to 2.18 per month for George W. Bush and 2.85 for President Clinton. In addition, Obama has broken his campaign promise to protect whistleblowers as this administration aggressively targets whistleblowers and journalists alike.

As Jesselyn Radack wrote for Salon, “While the Bush administration treated whistleblowers unmercifully, the Obama administration has been far worse. It is actually prosecuting them, and doing so under the Espionage Act — one of the most serious charges that can be leveled against an American.”

Obama is a brilliant orator, a skilled politician and an unparalleled advocate for LGBT equality. But he compromises his legacy and cheapens his office with these stunts. Will he stop stonewalling and finally make good on his personal promise to sit down for an interview with the Blade? The clock is ticking, Mr. President. We’re ready when you are.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

23 Comments
  • Stopped reading after "a woman with green lipstick." Unbecoming, Blade.

  • OMG, this sounds like the rant of a spoiled brat who isn't getting their way. Ms. Crawford, maybe you should learn that not everyone is your fan!

  • OMG, this sounds like the rant of a spoiled brat who isn't getting their way. Ms. Crawford, maybe you should learn that not everyone is your fan!

  • No, talking to regular people does not diminish his standing. This is an insider journalism complaint about access, dressed up as concern-trolling about the stature of the presidency.

  • No, talking to regular people does not diminish his standing. This is an insider journalism complaint about access, dressed up as concern-trolling about the stature of the presidency.

  • "No, talking to regular people does not diminish his standing. This is an insider journalism complaint about access, dressed up as concern-trolling about the stature of the presidency."
    -Steve
    **************
    I disagree, Steve. I don't think it's journalistic elitism trolling– tho, like you, I'm delighted to noodge-bash the Blade when it needs it. Still, some 'inside baseball' journalistic whistle-blowing is interesting and warranted, too. Power corrupts and concedes nothing, as they say.
    ˙
    The Blade's interest in a WH interview aside, I think all officials' power– 'stature' to use your word– is really a fungible commodity. It translates to the amount of political clout and influence any official holds at any given point in time. So 'presidential stature' (or mayoral stature) matters to whatever causes and interests one might have — pro or con.

  • Thanks for writing about this. Almost NOBODY else is. There are so few genuine journalists, remaining. It's just a giant game of telephone, mostly played by Obama sycophants. Too bad nobody in the Obama admin has gotten him to 'evolve' toward science regarding homosexuality. What he said is nauseating. No wonder more Americans believe homosexuality is a choice than did when he took office. President Obama sets a horrible example.

  • Will the Blade GROW THE FUCK UP! Quit your bitching about not getting an exclusive interview! You sound like a spoiled little brat and REPORT the news quit trying to make yourself the news story! This rant of yours cheapens your standing in the world!

  • Mr. Naff, I totally agree with you. I think you said it perfectly.

  • Mr. Naff, I totally agree with you. I think you said it perfectly.

  • Elitist much? As Nice as the White House has been with your reporter whining ass Chris Johnson at all the events you have a lot of nerve to say what you just said! Petulant Child!

  • I agree! Shameful opinion piece

  • Ungrateful idiot! No other president has done for this community as HE DID! You don't like it well lets turn it over to the GOP and let's see what they do! The nerve of some people!

  • "Ungrateful idiot! No other president has done for this community as HE DID! You don't like it well lets turn it over to the GOP and let's see what they do! The nerve of some people!"
    –Efrem
    ********************
    Apparently, you don't understand the nature of journalism, Efrem. Good journalists are not knee jerk cheerleaders for any particular cause. And journalists who are blindly fawning (or constantly hypercritical) of any political official are rightly dismissed as biased.
    ˙
    To address the Blade's complaint regarding the promised presidential interview here…
    ˙
    Whether intentional or unintentional, institutional/official homophobic and transphobic discrimination reveals itself in all kinds of ways, big and small. And discriminatory conduct (even unintentional discriminatory negligence) must be judged on the facts and circumstances of each case.
    ˙
    Responsibility for anti-LGBT discrimination is not dependent on any past performance, friendly or not.
    ˙
    What a POTUS says and does always matters — every damn time, and every damn day. No POTUS should get a pass for using insulting, anti-LGBT references to LGBT people. Not 1% of the time. Not ever.
    ˙
    No POTUS and no WH Press Office should get a pass for de facto anti-LGBT discrimination against LGBT news publishers and their reporters. President Obama ought to correct that by simply honoring his promise to the Blade's readers.
    ˙
    WH Press discriminatory treatment aside, I can't imagine a more politically friendly news readership for any POTUS than the Blade's for this president.
    ˙

  • Well, considering he's the President of the US, and a free man, I suppose he can accept interviews with whomever the fk he wants. Plus, I imagine he's probably pretty sick of the way that mainstream journalists twist his words into bones and lies. Obama has never been afraid to deal with real people – even people with green lipstick this writer seems to imply should be judged some way?

  • Well, considering he's the President of the US, and a free man, I suppose he can accept interviews with whomever the fk he wants. Plus, I imagine he's probably pretty sick of the way that mainstream journalists twist his words into bones and lies. Obama has never been afraid to deal with real people – even people with green lipstick this writer seems to imply should be judged some way?

  • I'd be more open to the criticism if I had a higher opinion of today's journalists–a comment that I'm NOT aiming at the Blade. The idea that most of who pass as journalists today would ask a tough follow up question is a pipe dream. What contemporary journalists so often do is play passive host who solicits each side's canned talking points and pretends that something has been accomplished by the exercise. Heaven forbid they ask a tough follow up question and be accused of bias by a rabid partisan. So we get this faux "neutrality" that is just vapid. The talking points are all over the internet. We don't need a journalist to collate them for us, but that's all so many journalists do today. You'd be under the table within 10 minutes if you played a drinking game and swilled a shot every time David Gregory failed to ask a follow up.

  • What a petty, elitist piece on nonsense this "commentary" is!! The GOP ansd rabid "Obama haters" are cheering for you, Kevin. Grow up and join the 21st Century. Kudos to President Obama for reaching out and trying to engage young voters!!

  • Brian I don't care this OPINION PIECE STINKS! PERIOD! And LGBTQ PEOPLE do it to each other everyday. When we can stand onONE ACCORD then I'll reconsider until then…….

  • Steve Clark
    I hear that. Broadcast news in particular is hobbled by its confusing fairness with balance in air time with fairness and balance in arguments made. Many if not most political issues are not equivalent– whether morally or in the amount of evidence supporting the respective sides. Politicians, most of whom are lawyers, understand the value have having a quick, non-committal answer ready. The best journalists know that are ready with a followup — or two. Tim Russert was masterful at it. Of course he was trained as a lawyer, too.

  • Efrem, I don't know about "one accord." Nothing is ever 100% in politics– among free people anyway.
    ˙
    However, the greatest failure of LGBT activists– whether dealing with government officials who are friends or are foes– is lacking the imagination or being too timid to ask for more and better solutions to LGBT inequality.
    ˙
    For example, ENDA-like protections and EFFECTIVE non-discriminatory hiring and promotion best practices is something every local government can strongly encourage– and even mandate legislatively– within its own employee base through LGBT outreach and recruitment measures.
    ˙
    Organizations like GLAA have lost focus and been too timid on that front, IMO.
    ***************
    "Brian I don't care this OPINION PIECE STINKS! PERIOD! And LGBTQ PEOPLE do it to each other everyday. When we can stand onONE ACCORD then I'll reconsider…"
    -Efrem

  • God! Would you PLEASE stop whining! If this is the way you act it is no wonder the president will have nothing to do with you. Grow up. Better yet, shut up.

  • Totally agree, what he said is nauseating. We deserve an apology. I also agree with the author's premise that this sort of interview demeans his office. I'm glad the Blade hasn't been bought and paid for by the President's crumbs.

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