President Obama has an interesting history with “hot mike” blunders, in which he forgets his microphone is still turned on, and says something he didn’t want the public to hear. The latest incident occurred yesterday at the G20 summit in France, where Obama and French president Nicolas Sarkozy traded gripes about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Ynet News was almost alone among global media in reporting the details at first, after a lone French web site called “Arret sur Images” chose to publish the story:
The conversation apparently began with President Obama criticizing Sarkozy for not having warned him that France would be voting in favor of the Palestinian membership bid in UNESCO despite Washington’s strong objection to the move.
Gosh, I can’t imagine why Netanyahu would be upset about that.
The conversation then drifted to Netanyahu, at which time Sarkozy declared: “I cannot stand him. He is a liar.” According to the report, Obama replied: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!”
But luckily, Netanyahu only comes to America to take young Barack to school in front of Congress once every couple of years.
This could prove to be a significant blunder for Obama, who is already skating on thin ice with many Jewish voters. So why didn’t you hear about it until a French website broke it, Ynet News took it wide, the Drudge Report linked it, and other news agencies were obliged to weigh in? Ynet explains:
The surprising lack of coverage may be explained by a report alleging that journalists present at the event were requested to sign an agreement to keep mum on the embarrassing comments. A Reuters reporter was among the journalists present and can confirm the veracity of the comments.
A member of the media confirmed Monday that “there were discussions between journalists and they agreed not to publish the comments due to the sensitivity of the issue.”
He added that while it was annoying to have to refrain from publishing the information, the journalists are subject to precise rules of conduct.
(Emphases mine.) They are? Do we have the exact date in when those rules went into effect? It wasn’t January 20, 2009, was it? Because this is the same media that used to think nothing of publishing national security information, if it could be used to hurt President George W. Bush.
Ben Smith of Politico thinks the journalists who agreed to suppress the Obama-Sarkozy grumblings were primarily French:
The original report says a half-dozen — apparently, though not explicitly, French — reporters heard the conversation, but that they and their bosses jointly decided not to report off the glitch, on the grounds that to do so would mark some sort of ethical breach, something I don’t quite understand. The report also claims that the substance turned up in a Le Monde report asserting, without a source, Obama and Sarkozy had complained in private about their “difficult relations” with Netanyahu.
UPDATE: The reporter for Le Monde, Arnaud Leparmentier, tweets to me that he didn’t hear the conversation, and declined to disclose his source.
However, this is not the first time the U.S. media has covered for Obama’s open-mike blunders. CBS News famously refused to release the full transcript of what was apparently a juicy string of off-the-cuff remarks by the President. Hopefully none of the Republican candidates is delusional enough to think he’ll enjoy the same consideration.