Much of the media were abuzz this week when Neil Munro of the Daily Caller repeatedly interrupted President Obama’s White House announcement on immigration policy. Most commentators condemned Munro while certain members of the conservative press praised him. I believe this was a publicity stunt, a way to draw attention to the right wing website. It worked.
Now, I love a good publicity stunt, from Samuel Adams’ Boston Tea Party to the White House party crashers. But I despise what Neil Munro did because, in our society, some situations call for decorum and protocol. In the case of the president of the United States, reporters are supposed to wait until after the president is done speaking before asking questions. If the president doesn’t take questions, it’s ok to shout them out to him — after he has finished.
Adding insult to Munro’s bad behavior were the “journalists” defending him. Most notably were Fox’s Lou Dobbs and Daily Caller Editor Tucker Carlson, political pundits I’ve previously respected. Carlson even praised his reporter and suggested that he should get a raise. Some tried to compare Munro’s tactics with those of former ABC White House Correspondent Sam Donaldson, who wrote this in response:
“Never once did I interrupt a president in any way while he was making a formal statement, a speech, honoring awardees or in any other way holding the floor. Yes, almost always when he was finished…I tried to question him…and other reporters of course did the same thing along with me.
“What this man did yesterday is something new, to me wrong and unusual. I think it is probably…the competition among news organizations to be noticed not only for the work product but for the theatrics of the gathering…and there is one more factor, let’s face it: Many on the political right believe this president ought not to be there – they oppose him not for his polices and political view but for who he is, an African American! These people and perhaps even certain news organizations (certainly the right wing talkers like Limbaugh) encourage disrespect for this president.”
Presidential protocol is part of what makes us a civil society. Publicity stunts shouldn’t cross that line. Can you imagine the conservative outcry if a left wing reporter shouted interruptions at a (white) Republican president? Your thoughts?