Lynn Sweet, the Chicago Sun-Times White House correspondent and columnist who asked President Obama about Henry Louis Gates last night, said that she is sure that other reporters in the room had it on their list of questions.
“I figured that no matter what he would say, it would be a story,” Sweet said this afternoon. “I had no idea he would be so engaged in the question and give an animated defense of Gates.”
No, Obama did not know what she would ask. Sweet said. There seems to be a notion swirling out there after the flap when the president called on Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney at a press conference last month with the knowledge that Pitney had a question about Iran, generated by a request for queries that he sent out to Iranians via Twitter.
Sweet’s question was: “Thank you, Mr. President. Recently Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge. What does that incident say to you and what does it say about race relations in America?”
Update: Sweet just posted a blog item on the question and whether there was any warning:
“No conspiracy, folks.
“When President Obama called on me, he had no idea what I would be asking. I had not written or blogged about the Gates incident, so no one in the White House had any clue that I was particularly interested in Obama’s reaction.
“I got a call from the White House press office about 6:30 p.m. confirming I was indeed going to show up at the 8 p.m. press conference. I was told I “may” get a question from the president. No one asked me — directly or indirectly — about what I may be asking. No one from the White House tried to plant any question.”
The White House plans in advance who the president will call upon — a far cry from the less orchestrated days when reporters anxiously raised their hands to try to get his attention.