President Barack Obama didn’t want this weekend’s getaway to Florida’s Gulf Coast to be a repeat of past beach trips, where the media spent days commenting on his toned physique. When press photographers snapped the president elect baring his upper torso during a Hawaii beach vacation in late 2008, for instance, Webby pandemonium ensued.
But the White House took measures this time out. “I’m not going to let you guys take a picture of me with my shirt off,” he told CNN’s Ed Henry on Saturday. For this trip, the Obama administration wanted media attention focused on the region’s recovery from the disastrous BP oil spill, not on his pec-profile.
And that remained the game plan for press handlers throughout the weekend. The White House press team kept photographers at a distance when Obama took a dip during the family’s weekend trip to Florida.
The New York Times reports that photographers traveling with the president “were led into a hotel by the White House staff and remained there for about three hours while Mr. Obama swam.”
The White House released one photo on Flickr, but it isn’t as “pec-tacular”as previous shots that landed on the covers of newspapers and magazines, and subsequently fueled hours of chatter from cable news hosts. (See the comparatively more tame Flickr shot, by White House photographer Pete Souza, above).
Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told the Times that it was simply easier logistically to rely on the White House photographer.
It’s not the first time the White House has rankled news photographers by distributing an official picture instead of allowing them to take their own shots. Just as news organizations don’t run White House press releases verbatim, some outlets refuse to run official photos along with their editorial content.
Michael Oreskes, the Associated Press’s managing editor for U.S. News, described White House-distributed photos as “visual press releases” to me back in January 2009. The AP, then and now, has refused to send such photos over the wire.
The issue continues to come up within the press corps. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs discussed it with members of the White House Correspondents Association this past April, too. “We talked extensively about access, particularly around the use of official photos” he later told the Upshot.
— Yahoo News