February 19th, 2009
06:01 PM ET

President Obama's make-up round

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/19/art.obamacanada.gi.jpg caption="Obama traveled to Canada Thursday."]

Ed Henry
CNN White House Correspondent

Ever wonder how President Obama decides which reporters to call upon at a news conference? Here in Canada it appears to be a matter of the President soothing some bruised feelings by calling on two newspaper reporters he recently skipped over at his first White House press conference.

As I sit in the front row for the event about to start with the President and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the buzz among American reporters is that the lucky folks are David Jackson of USA Today and Jonathan Weisman of The Wall Street Journal.

The behind-the-scenes story is that Jackson and Weisman, who work for two major papers, were not happy that the President didn't call on them at the big East Room newser earlier this month.

One way for White House officials to make it up to the gentlemen - and their sizable readerships - would be to call on them now. Sure enough, several reporters say Weisman and Jackson have been tipped that Obama will call on them today. And sure enough, both men have been given prime seats - front and center - here in Canada.

Then again, being tipped off that you're getting a question to a president doesn't always work out as planned. I remember in Colombia a couple of years ago an aide to President Bush tipped me that I should be ready to be called on.

Then Bush himself winked at me, so I got armed and ready. And then when my turn was coming, the President looked down at the piece of paper at his podium reminding him of who to call on and appeared to lose his place on the page.

Under pressure to call out a name he fell back on blurting the name of an Associated Press reporter in the front row and my carefully-crafted question never saw the light of day.

Filed under: Ed Henry • President Barack Obama
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. I AM Canadian

    Heya, Peter Sudbury
    I noticed Mr. Obama fiddling with an earpiece at one point when Harper was speaking French, so I'd bet the president was using simultaneous translation - probably the same system as used in the Commons.

    February 20, 2009 at 1:48 am |
  2. J.V.Hodgson

    No I do not wonder how OBama decides because he does not. Some back office whizz kid makes those decisions.
    Poor little media GUYS, just like the KID who takes his ball away from the game because he is losing.
    Awe shucks we are all so sorry for you especially CNN because you could not be the first to know Boo Hoo!!
    Oooops a guaranteed moderated out!!

    February 20, 2009 at 1:47 am |
  3. Glendon Muir, Ottawa, Canada

    It was nice to see you reporting from Ottawa, Ed! (Next time could AC360 say you were reporting from Ottawa and not "Ottowa" like it read while you were enjoying the beaver tail?) Regardless, it's cute to see Ottawa be the Big News Story. Hope you enjoyed you had a warm reception and enjoyed your stay.

    February 20, 2009 at 1:44 am |
  4. Rhonda

    Note to AC360. Ottawa is spelled with an A not an O. On the show it was shown as Ottowa.

    February 20, 2009 at 1:40 am |
  5. Brian Boggs

    C'mon CNN- You have to get it right!! Please???

    I was most disappointed to see you spell Ottawa (the capital city of Canada) with "Ottowa" in Anderson's coverage of Obama visit to our city. Shame.
    Generally, CNN shows are very well done, but give your graphics editor a dictionary or a map of Canada please – we may have to cut off our oil and gas if this continues!! Better yet, come to OTTAWA to see us and we'll show him/her around and practise our spelling.

    PS> It was great to have Mr. Obama here visiting in OTTAWA. We love him here.

    February 19, 2009 at 11:26 pm |
  6. Sandy (Canada)

    Just a couple of things. I'm not sure why US media typically shows only the US component of any event. For example, on tonight's broadcast, only President Obama's comments were shown. Prime Minister Harper was also at the press conference and had some very important things to say regarding the US/Canada relationship. IMHO, I think that Americans would have like to have heard what Prime Minister Harper had to say. The most compelling example was about the importance of border security since a threat to the US is a threat to Canada. Also, the importance of trade between the two countries.

    In a global economy such as we are all committed to at this point, it is extremely important to hear BOTH sides of issues. Isn't that President Obama's message? Collaboration. I think that Americans would benefit from hearing other points of view.

    Also, it's Ottawa NOT Ottowa. Even though we Canadians likely pronounce it more like the latter 🙂


    February 19, 2009 at 11:12 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    That's a typical Bush story and so funny. Poor Bush, I wonder how long we will be joking at his expense! Its too bad you didn't get that question in then but your questions must always be good because you always seem to have a deep understanding of whatever topic you are reporting on. Thanks for that and good luck in getting called on.

    February 19, 2009 at 8:57 pm |
  8. Mari, Salt Lake City

    President Obama is a brilliant, articulate man. Refreshing from the last president who had trouble pronouncing the English language.

    February 19, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  9. Sam M., Ewa Beach, HI

    Aw. Ed sorry to hear Bush skipped you. Your question was good at the White House press conference.

    February 19, 2009 at 7:52 pm |
  10. Peter Sudbury, Peterborough, Ont

    I watched the news conference and noted that when Prime Minister Harper spoke in french, President Obama did not appear to need a translator. Does he speak french or any other languages?

    February 19, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  11. Mario

    AC, i will hate to see president Obama fall face down from the steps of Air Force One. Will you remain him that tonight shows from all over the world will stay in business during this hard times. i guess that is a way to stimulate the US economy. Remenber he almost lost an eye going up Marine One. I love my president and i don't want to see that happen.


    February 19, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  12. Amanda Walton-Fort Erie, Canada

    Hope your stay in Ottawa today wasn't to cold today for you Ed. Our weather isn't to different from Washington but because we're the Great White North it adds to the presumption of how cold it is here, although today with the wind sure was cold.

    I watched reports on The Situation Room about what President Obama bought at his stop in the markets in Ottawa at the BeaverTail. It was reported he bought a snowcone and keychain. I'm not sure about the keychain but I don't believe he got a snowcone but maple cookies, what I saw anyway and of course the staff at the BeaverTail would not accept his money (Canadian money even). It was a great visit here for many Canadians who admire the new President and his contribution to Canada by recognizing our country and our many contributions to the U.S. and abroad.

    I'll be sure to attend his arrival at his next visit, I have a feeling it will be a summer event since he kinda hinted he'd rather come back when it's warm.

    Stay Safe and Stay Warm Ed. Enjoy always reading your posts

    February 19, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  13. Gerry in Toronto

    Ed, that is a funny story on Bush, thanks for sharing it.

    February 19, 2009 at 6:18 pm |
  14. jarrod

    is this freedom of the press? i like somone that can answer questions on the spot without babbling!

    February 19, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  15. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Sometimes "wishes" do come true.

    February 19, 2009 at 3:08 pm |