A Washington government-watchdog organization says the White House worked to prevent a reporter’s access to the brother of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.
“The Obama White House has no business interfering with independent press investigations of Ms. Kagan,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “These documents show that the Obama White House could care less about transparency on the Kagan nomination and is no friend of an independent media.”
Hearings are under way this week in the U.S. Senate on the nomination of Kagan, a virulent antimilitary attorney who has advocated for a “more leftist Left” and worked in the administrations of two Democrat presidents.
Judicial Watch, which investigates and prosecutes government corruption, said it obtained access to documents from Hunter College High School regarding the efforts by the White House to refuse education reporter Sharon Otterman of The New York Times permission to hear Kagan’s brother, Irving, who teaches at the school.
Judicial Watch said Otterman had sought and obtained permission from the school and Irving Kagan to attend one of his constitutional-law classes at the school.
But Judicial Watch said White House deputy press secretary Joshua Earnest then jumped in to veto the plan.
“I’m definitely not comfortable with that at this point,” Earnest told Otterman in an exchange of e-mails during May.
Earnest also gave instructions to Irving Kagan not to respond to such press inquiries and instead to forward them to the White House office.
“This reporter says she has permission from you and from the school to sit in on your class,” he wrote to Irving Kagan. “I’ve articulated my concerns to (Hunter College spokeswoman Meredith Halpern) – who says she now agrees with me.
“I’ve articulated my concerns to the reporter, who’s feeling misled that we’re telling her no and she says she was told yes,” he continued.
“In the future, it’s important to direct all reporter inquiries to the White House. It’ll be easier for you to stay out of the middle of these conversations if you send them directly to us without responding,” he said.
Irving Kagan had indicated he had no objection to the reporter’s request but apparently was concerned that his response had disturbed feelings at the White House.
“I told my folks at school I was willing to participate, but only with your agreement. Was that the mistake?” he wrote.
The documents uncovered by Judicial Watch did not contain the reason for the White House objection to having a reporter hear a presentation by Elena Kagan’s brother. She had graduated from the school in 1977.