How The White House Smothered The News Of Obama's Trip To Afghanistan
How the White House played whack-a-mole,
and why I deleted my tweet. Drudge wouldn't budge.
Shortly before 9:19 a.m. this morning the Afghanistan-based 24-hour broadcast news station TOLONews tweeted that President Barack Obama had landed in Afghanistan.
The TOLONews tweet was spotted by Huffington Post reporter Joshua Hersh, who wondered “Is this right?" setting in motion a frantic effort by the White House to keep word of Obama's trip out of the press until he was out of harm's way.
Is this right? RT @TOLOnews BREAKING: United States President Barack Obama has arrived in Kabul to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Ă¢Â€Â” Joshua Hersh (@joshuahersh) May 1, 2012
In a tweet moments later, this reporter noted the TOLONews report and that no U.S.-based outlet was reporting the same.
A few minutes later, at 9:33, National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor called BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, who had retweeted the report, to ask that the tweet be taken down, warning that it would endanger the life of the president and everyone with him if the tweet was not removed.
"Like most news organizations, we will typically defer to the White House's judgment on true security risks," Smith said, explaining why BuzzFeed complied with the request. "In this case, we had no original reporting on the subject, and it didn't seem like right moment to have an abstract argument about the contemporary media ecosystem, though I think it's getting harder and harder to unring these bells."
By early afternoon, however, the New York Post story was gone as well. After the news broke, a Post spokesman email a self-congratulatory statement from editor in chief Col Allan:
The White House informed the Post today the report on its website that President Obama was in Kabul was not accurate and that, in publishing it, the paper was endangering the President’s life. With due respect to the White House and out of an abundance of caution, the Post removed the story from its website. We are impressed the White House believes the Taliban, while hiding in caves and dodging American drones, are, like millions of others, avid readers of nypost.com.