White House Visitors: Oprah and Others

Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Brad Pitt all appear on the logs of the initial batch of visitor records released by the White House today, but the more discreet entertainment figures may not have to worry about their names being disclosed.

The White House unveiled the list of visits dating from Jan. 20 to Sept. 15, but the names are only those that have been specifically requested. The Obama administration plans to release visitor records on a regular basis starting in late December, although the lists will be 90 days after the fact and will not include those coming to the Executive Mansion for purely personal visits with the President and First Lady.

Winfrey visited twice, once for a late-night reception on inauguration day, Jan. 20, and another time on Feb. 17 to interview Michelle Obama.

Clooney’s visit on Feb. 23 was to visit Vice President Joseph Biden to talk about the crisis in Darfur, but the logs do not mention his short, last-minute visit with President Obama or Clooney’s press conference on the White House driveway.

The record for Pitt’s March 5 visit to the White House mentions meeting with adviser Melody Barnes and Kate Brandt, special assistant to Carol Browner, but does not cite his meeting with Obama, where he discussed his Make It Right project in New Orleans. Pitt was joined in his visit meeting by producer Steve Bing and their political advisers Trevor Neilson and Chad Griffin.

Hill Harper, who went to law school with Obama, visited twice, once on May 12 to meet Obama as part of a poetry reading, and again on May 14 to meet with Karen Anderson of the Council on Women and Girls.

Obama’s team agreed to release the records in response to lawsuits brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. In unveiling the names on Friday afternoon — in what is known as a document dump — the White House also expressed words of caution of not assuming those on the list are who they appear to be.

White House special counsel Norm Eisen wrote, “A lot of people visit the White House, up to 100,000 each month, with many of those folks coming to tour the buildings. Given this large amount of data, the records we are publishing today include a few “false positives” – names that make you think of a well-known person, but are actually someone else.  In September, requests were submitted for the names of some famous or controversial figures (for example Michael Jordan, William Ayers, Michael Moore, Jeremiah Wright, Robert Kelly (“R. Kelly”), and Malik Shabazz).  The well-known individuals with those names never actually came to the White House.  Nevertheless, we were asked for those names and so we have included records for those individuals who were here and share the same names.”

A case in point: Denzel Washington’s name pops up for two visits, one on May 7 and another on May 9, but he was part of a White House tour.

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