Dec 7, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from Politico: The White House Correspondents Association is strongly urging the Obama administration to allow press access to the president’s official swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20, following indications from inauguration committee officials that the event could potentially be closed to the press.
“Mindful of the historic nature of this occasion, we expect the White House will continue the long tradition of opening the President’s official swearing-in to full press access, and we as an organization are looking forward to working with the administration to make that happen,” Ed Henry, the Fox News correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association, said in a statement.
Because inauguration day falls on a Sunday in 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts will officially administer the official oath of office in a private ceremony that day. The public inauguration on the Capitol Building’s West Front — at which Roberts will administer a second, symbolic oath of office — will take place the next day.
In early meetings with the inaugural committee, officials privately indicated to reporters that the Jan. 20 event could be closed to reporters and cameras, with an official photograph supplied to press by White House photographer Pete Souza, sources familiar with the meeting told POLITICO.
Fears of such a scenario were reignited this week when the Presidential Inauguration Committee sent out a press release referring to a “private” inauguration.
Both the White House and the PIC note that “private” simply means the event is not open to the public and that press arrangements have not been formalized.
”There is no truth to any rumors that decisions have been made about media access to this year’s Inaugural events,” Rachel Racusen, a spokesperson for the PIC, told POLITICO. “The 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee announced its launch yesterday and is just beginning its planning. Any announcements about media access and credentials will be made in the coming weeks.”
The White House press corps acknowledges that nothing is set in stone. But even the possibility of a closed-press inauguration has stirred up immense frustration among the White House press corps, who note that past Sunday inaugurations were open to press.
“Call me shell-shocked. I’m stunned that this is even an issue; it boggles the mind,” NBC News White House correspondent Chuck Todd told POLITICO. “This is not their oath, this is the constitutional oath. It’s not for them. It’s for the public, the citizens of the United Sates. It just boggles the mind — How is this even a debate?”
Minutes from this week’s WHCA meeting noted “strong sentiment that the entire press pool must witness the moment.”
“We are urging the White House to reconsider any preliminary plans they have at the moment to keep this as a closed event,” C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully told POLITICO. “This is a historic event and it should be chronicled by news organizations. At a minimum, it should be a pooled event.”
The last time a president was inaugurated on a Sunday was in 1985. Reagan’s White House allowed complete news coverage of the private ceremony, including three reporters, three still photographers, and one network television pool camera, according to a Los Angeles Times report from the time. ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN carried live broadcasts of the event.