High: 49º Low: 33º
High: 54º Low: 31º
High; 58º Low: 34º
Censorship or Security: You Decide
Last Thursday, our TV station made the national headlines by reporting on President Obama’s children vacationing and skiing in Sun Valley. That evening we ran a story that showed an exclusive picture we had obtained and simply reported that Sun Valley had two very high profile guests; Malia and Sasha Obama. Friday morning, I was greeted with an email from the White House asking us to “off the record” pull the story.
My initial reaction, as is the case with most all requests to pull a story that has been both correctly gathered and reported, was to say no. After some thought and debate, we decided that pulling the story was the correct action to take in this instance since the request was born out of security for the two young girls.
As I said, the initial White House request was “off the record” and the only reason I am now disclosing the facts surrounding this matter is because the White House went “on the record” with a right-wing political website, Brietbart.com, and disclosed that they did in fact ask our station to pull the story.
Since Friday, our station has taken a lot of heat for pulling the story. I wanted to use my blog this week to explain our position and reasoning on pulling the story from our website. I also want to present my personal opinion on the entire matter at the end of this blog entry.
When we received the request from the White House, it asked us to pull the story due to security and privacy. As relates to privacy, I personally feel that by being the President of the United States you voluntarily surrendered the right to privacy for you and your entire family. Why, because you are the leader of the free world. Some would say that minor children should be off limits, but I do not totally agree on this point. I say this because you can tell a lot about a person’s character, values and decision making ability by taking a look at their family. If this statement was not true, politicians would not present their children as trophies while they are working to get elected. If the President wanted privacy for his family, perhaps he should have reconsidered running for President. Attention all politicians; You can’t use your children as media props whenever it is beneficial to you or the office, and then spin on a dime and say the children are off limits when it is not convenient. In conclusion, had the request asked us to pull the story based solely on privacy, the answer would have been no. But it didn’t. It also said security.
Let me just get directly to the point. The reason we pulled the story was because we were told it could present a security risk and I believed the administration was sincere. On another note, not only did we consider the security risks to the children while staying in Sun Valley, but we also considered the future security risks had we decided to set a new media precedent and not pull the story. In the interest of full disclosure, the story we presented on Thursday was really only relevant to “locals” because all we really said was that the President’s kids were skiing in Sun Valley. The correlation between the sequester and the vacation did not transpire until several politically- minded websites drew the connection. In conclusion, I think that if anyone totally sets aside all bias, a decision to pull the story we produced from the website is a very easy decision to make.
I hope this explains the thinking that went into making the decision we made last week. I am not asking for forgiveness, I just want to explain our point of view.
Now for my Blog Editorial on this topic.
Let’s begin by discussing the decision the President made to send his kids on a spring break trip to both the Bahamas and Sun Valley while our country is facing sequestration (automatic spending cuts that went into effect this year).
I will begin by saying that what the President does with his own money is his own business. Where I have a problem is when his personal decisions negatively impact our nation’s treasury, and yes, I do completely understand that insuring the security of the President’s family is almost as important as insuring the safety of the President (I did see both Air Force One and Olympus Has Fallen. I get it). Personally, I find it both difficult and hypocritical to ask others to do something that I am not willing to do myself. With this in mind, I will share a story.
When I was first promoted to TV Station Sales Manager in 2000 or so, I drove a 1997 Chevy Lumina. Prior to the promotion, we had some very lean times around the Pruitt household. As for that Chevy, I was perfectly happy because even though it had a lot of miles and was aging, it got me from one place to the other. Despite earning more money with my promotion to Sales Manager, and then being promoted to General Manager in 2004, I drove that car until the end of 2005. I did this because the station where I was working was facing some very difficult times between 2002 and mid 2005. In 2003, all raises were cancelled and a hiring freeze was put in place. In 2004, we cut over half of the news department. It was not until August of 2005 that we got things back on track. Even though I personally had both the means and the need to buy a new car, I drove that 1997 Chevy Lumina to communicate a message to my staff. The message was that, “I am in it with you.” If I would have pulled up in a new car while simultaneously asking others to do more with less would have sent the wrong message.
Although I am 100% sure the President will never read these words, perhaps he would do well to learn from my story. If he did, perhaps he would see that by sending your children on expensive trips to multiple high-end resorts, regardless of the actual cost to the American taxpayer, he is indirectly communicating the wrong message to the average U.S. citizen. I think all of us “regular people” are sick and tired of seeing Washington politicians live by a different set of standards. Do as I say, and not as I do. Well Mr. President, leaders make sacrifices. They do this so that they can have relevance with the people they lead. I know that the lifestyle of the President of the United States is on a totally different level than most of the rest of us can comprehend, and in reality because you are the President, it should be. But, if you really want us to follow you, then you need bring yourself down to our level every now and then and at least pretend to feel some of the pain that so many in our nation must deal with on a daily basis. Even though your flavor of politics may not directly align with my politics, you are still my President. Because of this I will support office. But, if you want to be a leader that I will follow, you have to show me that you are in it with me. President Truman’s sign on his desk summarizes the way I think leaders should lead. That sign said, “The buck stops here.”
In closing, I still truly believe that when the White House asked our TV station to pull the story, it was done out of a need for security. Because of that, I think we made the right decision. Some people who are blinded by politics, race, cynicism or just a general distrust of the American government might say that the motivation was to hide the Obama’s lifestyle. To those people, all I can say is that for the sake of our nation, I truly hope you are wrong. In the end, only the President and his administration will ever know the truth. In the meantime, I will err on the side of caution and continue to do my part in supporting the United States of America.
As always, thanks for reading my blog.