Nov
18
2011

Don't Commit Journalism at the National Press Club

When former FAIR staffer Sam Husseini found out that Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa'ud would be speaking at the National Press Club, he thought it might be a good chance to ask a tough question. The National Press Club apparently didn't like that idea.

Husseini writes:

Before the end of the day, I'd received a letter informing me that I was suspended from the National Press Club "due to your conduct at a news conference." The letter, signed by the executive director of the Club, William McCarren, accused me of violating rules prohibiting "boisterous and unseemly conduct or language."

Want to know what the National Press Club thinks is unseemly conduct? Watch for yourself:

For the record, the National Press Club has been taken other actions distinctly at odds with a free and aggressive press. In 2001, Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman wrote about how the Press Club seemed to want to protect Henry Kissinger from critical questions. The moderator explained that if questions about war crimes were asked, it "would take so much time to explain all of the context."

In 2005, Mokhiber attempted to go to a U.S. News & World Report event at the Press Club celebrating "America's Best Leaders." The sponsor? Oil giant BP.

Mokhiber was blocked from entering the event–which, for the record, was being held in the First Amendment Lounge. Why? Probably because Mokihber had attended another U.S. News event at the Press Club earlier that month that was sponsored by tobacco giant Altria. That time Mokhiber asked a question:

Senator Hagel said transparency is critical. What's the deal exactly between U.S. News & World Report and Altria? What are the details of the sponsorship? Members of the social responsibility community refuse to invest in tobacco companies. Did you find it a little odd that a panel on corporate responsibility is being sponsored by a tobacco company?

You can see why the Press Club might not want to have these people in the room. They ask the wrong kinds of questions.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.