Les Kinsolving

Les Kinsolving, WND’s distinguished White House correspondent, began covering the White House in 1973, the last year of the Nixon administration.

He has dealt with 12 previous White House press secretaries – as a one-time nationally syndicated columnist for 250 newspapers, two of which, in San Francisco, nominated him for the Pulitzer Prize.

He was also one of only two reporters, in 1972, who exposed the Rev. Jim Jones, of the People’s Temple, who had Kinsolving as No. 2 on his “hit list.”

But none of the rest of the major media would follow up on what Kinsolving reported in the San Francisco Examiner and Carolyn Pickering in the Indianapolis Star. Six years after this national media censorship, 914 people died at Jones’ hand in Guyana.

In his current job as a talk-radio host in Baltimore, a commentator for other stations and as White House correspondent for WND, Kinsolving, as the only talk-radio host in the White House press corps, has often asked Tony Snow tough questions. Some of the questions that have made the normally unflappable press secretary most angry have been about sending U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonzo Compean to prison.

Snow has replied to such questions with visible resentment and either evasion, or refusal to comment.

Since talk radio has been largely credited with having led to the defeat of the Bush-Kennedy “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill,” the press room resentment of Kinsolving has been apparent not only from Snow – but from unidentifed members of the press corps. Snow recently told Kinsolving his colleagues in the Big Media resented his questions as much or more than the press secretary did.

Within one week’s time (last week) Tony Snow refused to take any Kinsolving questions during three out of four daily White House press briefings.

At yesterday’s press briefing, Les asked Snow:

Q: The AP reports that Sydney, Australia’s lord mayor, Clover Moore, is leading a campaign urging all residents to pack an emergency survival kit in preparation for any terrorist attack or other disaster in Australia’s largest city. And my question – does the White House believe that this is a campaign U.S. cities should be launching, or not?

SNOW: That would be something that I would not be privy to comment on. And, Les, let me just – before we get back into a situation where it will be more difficult to get called on, let me just point out that you need to ask questions that bear on the president’s responsibilities. I saw the piece you wrote the other day, that has been thoroughly twisting out of context the answer I gave you when I told you that the president, in fact, was –

Q: That’s what –

SNOW: I don’t care. What you did –

Q: They wrote it out there.

SNOW: You know what, I don’t care, OK, because the fact is, if somebody is going to take questions about things that do not fall under the president’s purview – and I answered that question – and it gets twisted, that is a disservice to this White House and to the craft of journalism. So if I were you, I’d pick up the phone and tell them to start cleaning up or writing corrections.

This is a rebuke, and a threat, and an attempt to control Les Kinsolving and WND’s right to ask questions at the White House.

Interestingly, we have never seen Snow impose such attempted control on, say, Helen Thomas, whose questions have been hostile in a degree, manner and frequency never even approximated by Kinsolving’s. Thomas has called the Iraq war a “mindless invasion,” saying it was “without provocation.” She famously quipped she would commit suicide if Dick Cheney sought the presidency.

“I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war,” she says. “Bush’s policy of pre-emptive war is immoral – such a policy would legitimize Pearl Harbor. It’s as if they learned none of the lessons of Vietnam.”

Yet, Thomas is treated with respect – even deference by Snow.

We have seen Snow repeatedly allow reporters from the Old Media in the first two rows of the briefing room to ask five to 10 questions – while reporters from other media, like WND, have either been repeatedly denied the right to ask any questions, or limited to two, and in those, rushed by him, or given responses of both brevity and hostility.

WND realizes that no law requires that a White House press secretary be fair to all media.

Since Snow has been so repeatedly unfair to WND and Kinsolving, we shall begin covering him differently – unless and until we hear from him that he will be fair.

Every time there is a news briefing at the White House, we will publish one question from WND, one from our White House correspondent, Les Kinsolving, and one selected from among our 8 million readers.

If Snow answers any of these three questions, we will be happy to so report.

What we suspect, however, is that rarely will such questions be either answered, or asked, in the presently Tony-Snow-censored White House news briefings – which Kinsolving will no longer attend.

We do most sadly regret that under the pressure of such low ratings for President Bush, his press secretary – who puts up with so much abuse from Old Big Media reporters – has decided to discriminate against Les Kinsolving, who will continue to be our White House correspondent, in this new format.

I don’t deny Tony Snow has a tough job, often being asked, as he is, to defend the indefensible and articulate policy for an administration that otherwise so often seems tongue-tied. But if it makes Snow feel any better, he won’t have Les Kinsolving to kick around any more. Now, during briefings, he can focus his full attentions on loving up to the likes of Helen Thomas.

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