Fwd: In-town pool report No. 5

Begin forwarded message:

From: Thomas Burr >
Date: March 28, 2016 at 8:51:41 PM EDT
To: "Barnes, Desiree N." >
Subject: In-town pool report No. 5

Comments by POTUS on the tone of politics; full lid called

The president urged journalists to do their job and hold politicians accountable during remarks at the Robin Toner Award dinner, noting that when someone receives billions of dollars of earned media there should be plenty of fact checking accompanying it.

Obama did not mention any particular candidate in the presidential race, though we could, perhaps, speculate.

"If I say that the world is round and someone else says it's flat, that's worth reporting. But you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that shows the world is round," Obama told the crowd at the Andrew W. Mellon auditorium.

Obama said that politics has "always been rough and tumble" but when politicians become ignorant of reason and facts and analysis, "when it doesn't matter what's true and what's not, that makes it all but impossible to make good decisions on behalf of future generations."

Obama said the efforts against political correctness can sometimes just be an "excuse to say offensive things or lie out loud."

Obama said he fears the politics of today is tarnishing the American brand. When he talks to foreign leaders, Obama said, "The no 1 question I'm getting is what is happening in America?"

Obama noted increasing pressure on journalists and declining resources but said the cause of journalism needs to stay on the forefront. No one will care in 50 years how many retweets you got, he added.

"A well-informed electorate depends on you and our democracy depends on a well-informed electorate," Obama said.

Going off-script, Obama noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had once mentioned a piece in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg that Obama said he wasn't a big fan of (though he said he respected Goldberg).

"Unlike you, Vladimir, I don't get to edit the piece before," Obama said. He was extolling the virtues of a free press, even if it was occasionally frustrating.

Obama praised Toner, the first national political reporter for The New York Times and who passed away in 2008, as a "reporter's reporter. ... She always saw herself as being a servant to the American public." He noted that she didn't cover the horse race, the mud-slinging or the circus. It was about how policies "affected the lives of real people."

Please check all quotes against transcript. Speech ran 32 minutes.

Scores of guests in business attire and fancy dress were seated around round tables for Obama's remarks. Uplighting in the hall was, of course, Syracuse Orange.

Motorcade departed the hall at 8:25 and arrived at the WH four minutes later. Lid called upon return.

(On a personal note, your pooler's first home in DC was Robin's basement apartment in NW. He had hoped some of her brilliance would rub off.)

Thomas Burr
The Salt Lake Tribune | Washington bureau
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