Washington: A reporter for a conservative news website interrupted President Barack Obama’s announcement of a new immigration policy in the Rose Garden on Friday, drawing a rebuke from the visibly agitated president.
The reporter, who later identified himself as Neil Munro of the Daily Caller, shouted out questions while Obama was explaining that his administration will block deportations of young illegal immigrants. That prompted the president to respond: “Not while I’m speaking.”
At the end of his remarks, however, Obama returned to Munro, who was standing in the press corps area of the manicured lawn outside the West Wing and had asked why Obama’s new policy favoured “foreigners over American workers”.
“And the answer to your question, sir — and the next time I’d prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question — is this is the right thing to do for the American people,” Obama said, before Munro shouted out again.
The president added: “I didn’t ask for an argument. I’m answering your question.” As Obama finished and walked off, Munro shouted: “What about American workers who are unemployed while you import foreigners?”
On the Daily Caller’s website, Munro issued a statement explaining that he thought Obama was wrapping up his remarks when he asked the question. “I have no intention of interrupting the President of the United States. I know he rarely takes questions before walking away from the podium,” Munro said in the statement.
“When I asked the question as he finished his speech, he turned his back on the many reporters, and walked away while I and at least one other reporter asked questions.”
Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson, who was at an airport in Chicago and did not watch the news conference, praised Munro’s approach. “That’s what reporters do, try to get their questions answered. And that’s what politicians do, try not to answer questions,” Carlson said in a phone interview.
“They come out and make a statement and run back into their fortress. Why should we play along with that?” Carlson described Munro as an experienced White House reporter in his mid-40s who has worked at the website for two years.
He said Munro is an immigrant from Ireland who is married to an American and has children. Carlson emphasised that Munro had not orchestrated a pre-planned stunt to draw attention. “I had no idea,” Carlson said. “He’s an aggressive person.”
But retired ABC News reporter and anchor Sam Donaldson, 78, said in a telephone interview: “I never interrupted any president while he was making a formal presentation of any sort. You don’t do that, do you?” Carlson added that White House press secretary Jay Carney had emailed him after the incident asking Carlson to contact him.
“I’m a believer in politeness, but we ought to be polite to everybody,” Carlson said. “I also think these things are structured in such a way that gives the politician all the cards.” Carlson added that he would give Munro a raise if the website could afford it.