WASHINGTON — The Drudge Report went big Thursday with KPHO reporter Catherine Anaya’s story that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gets questions from reporters ahead of the daily press briefing in advance so he can prepare his answers.
The story was false, and in an email to BuzzFeed, Anaya says the day of online speculation about it was “my mistake and I own up to it.”
Anaya was at the White House Wednesday as part of scheduled group of local interviews the president granted. Anaya and the other local reporters in town for the interviews got special access to the White House reporters based there full-time often do not get, such as, she said, an off-the-record coffee with Carney and conversations with top White House staff.
Part of that special treatment included a conversation with a White House staffer about a question she planned to ask of Carney at the daily briefing. Anaya says a White House staffer asked her to submit her question ahead of time. She agreed, before deciding to scrap the briefing question and ask it of the president during their four-minute interview instead.
“As a local journalist I had no issue providing my proposed question in advance because I wanted to make sure it was an appropriate [question] for a national briefing and I wanted to make sure it was appropriate for Mr. Carney, but in discussing it with a staff member the night before we decided I would save it for the president,” she said. “I was attempting to not waste national time on a local question but in my attempt at explaining that I unintentionally made it sound like that experience applied to everyone. That is my mistake and I own up to it.”
In her standup from the White House, Anaya told a different story, one she now says was in error.
“[Carney] mentioned that a lot of times, unless it’s something breaking, the questions that the reporters actually ask — the correspondents — they are provided to him in advance,” she said. “So then he knows what he’s going to be answering and sometimes those correspondents and reporters also have those answers printed in front of them, because of course it helps when they’re producing their reports for later on. So that was very interesting.”
In a statement posted to the KPHO website Thursday, Anaya walked that back. KPHO took the statement down shortly after it was posted.
Scott Davis, senior assignment editor at KPHO, told BuzzFeed the statement was pulled because “It was incomplete and not ready to be posted.”
“It seems much had been inferred about my observations following my White House visit yesterday.
“First, I did not take notes during our coffee with Jay Carney because it was off the record. But when I referenced the meeting in my live reports I did say that it was a great opportunity to talk about the challenges of his day and how he has to be so well-versed on many topics each day.
“In my live report I also wanted to share my impression of my experience in getting a question answered during the briefing. I was indeed asked to provide my question in advance. Because my question was largely of local interest, I chose to save it for my interview with the President instead.
“My mistake was to lump that experience with my coffee meeting reference, inadvertently giving Mr. Carney credit for that when in fact it did not come from him. I regret giving anyone the impression that it was from conversation I had with Mr. Carney.
“I do not attend those briefings regularly and cannot speak directly to the process for non-visiting journalists.
“None of my observations stemmed from my off-the-record meeting with Jay Carney.”
Reporters who regularly attend White House briefings are not asked to provide questions in advance, nor are they given answers in advance.