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CNN Correspondent Jabs President on FOCA, 'Above My Pay Grade' Answer

CNN's White House Correspondent Ed Henry broke the laudatory ranks of the mainstream media and even with those from his own network during Wednesday night's primetime White House press conference when he questioned President Barack Obama about his pledge to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.


Henry challenged the President by bringing up the current controversy over Obama's scheduled commencement address at the University of Notre Dame and his flippant cop-out, “it's above my pay grade” to the question of when life begins:

Thank you, Mr. President. In a couple of weeks, you're going to be giving the commencement at Notre Dame. And, as you know, this has caused a lot of controversy among Catholics who are opposed to your position on abortion.

As a candidate, you vowed that one of the very things you wanted to do was sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which, as you know, would eliminate federal, state and local restrictions on abortion. And at one point in the campaign when asked about abortion and life, you said that it was above – quote, above my pay grade.

Now that you've been president for 100 days, obviously, your pay grade is a little higher than when you were a senator.

Do you still hope that Congress quickly sends you the Freedom of Choice Act so you can sign it?

President Obama briefly smiled at Henry's dig before he proceeded to side-step the Notre Dame and beginning of life issues, re-assert his commitment to pro-choice beliefs and backtrack from FOCA by saying, “Now, the Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority. I believe that women should have the right to choose. But I think that the most important thing we can do to tamp down some of the anger surrounding this issue is to focus on those areas that we can agree on. And that's – that's where I'm going to focus.”

Henry's question provided a stark contrast to the other questions asked by members of the media:


    Jeff Zeleny, New York Times: “During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?”

    Chuck Todd, NBC: “Pakistan appears to be at war with the Taliban inside their own country. Can you reassure the American people that if necessary America could secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and keep it from getting into the Taliban's hands or, worst case scenario, even al-Qaida's hands?”

    Chip Reid, CBS: “Do you see it [Sen. Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party] that way [as indication that we're on the verge of one-party rule]? And, also, what do you think his switch say about the state of the Republican Party?” Reid asked as a follow-up question, “Is the Republican Party in the desperate straits that Arlen Specter seems to think it is?”

Kudos to Henry for pointing out first, that Obama and his polices are not universally revered, and second, that a mocking answer to a serious question is no answer at all.


Perhaps his press room colleagues (Zeleny) could take notes the next time Henry asks a question.


Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.