Many pundits on Thursday were shocked by the gall of President Obama to say that he doesn’t “do photo-ops,” a mere day after glossy, White House-sanctioned shots surfaced of him sipping beer and shooting pool with the Colorado governor.
Except he didn’t actually say that, manifold distortions notwithstanding. Here’s what Obama actually said Wednesday night when defending his decision to not visit the U.S.-Mexico border.
This isn’t theater. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo-ops; I’m interested in solving a problem. And those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they’re giving us suggestions that are embodied in legislation that I’ve already sent to Congress. So it’s not as if they’re making suggestions that we’re not listening to. In fact, the suggestions of those who work at the border, who visited the border, are incorporated in legislation that we’re already prepared to sign the minute it hits my desk.
“Gotcha,” the critics cried in unison.
Soon, Twitter was flooded with the work of White House photographer Pete Souza. There was Obama embracing the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May. And there was Obama at the center of a mob of excited kids.
Of course, this response would have been much stronger had Obama actually expressed an aversion to all photo-ops rather than a narrow objection to a photo-op at the border, which has seen a recent surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America.
But if you learned of Obama’s remark from various journalists and commentators, you might be left with the wrong impression.
“File under disingenuous: Obama, fresh from photo op playing pool & sipping beer w/Hickelooper in Denver, says ‘I don’t do photo ops,'” Real Clear Politics editor Tom Bevan tweeted, prompting a shake of the head from Dana Perino, the former White House press secretary under George W. Bush and a current Fox News personality.
@TomBevanRCP I’m still trying to get my head around this statement by potus. It’s one of those that lasts long after a presidency is over.
— Dana Perino (@DanaPerino) July 10, 2014
The “I don’t do photo-ops” meme has been persistent.
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) July 9, 2014
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) July 10, 2014
— Zach Wolf (@zbyronwolf) July 10, 2014
CNN’s John King acknowledged Thursday that it’s “not like the President is averse to all photo-ops” — right before he misquoted what Obama said about photo-ops.
“So it is hard for the president, on the one hand, to say ‘I don’t do photo-ops,’ when he’s doing a lot of photo ops,” King said.
The hosts on “Fox & Friends” were typically indignant about Obama’s apparent gaffe.
“The President — by definition, by stuff you have to do and you choose to do — you do photo-ops. When there’s a horrific school shooting in Connecticut, you show up. When there’s a terrible Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey, you meet the Republican governor and walk around in a windbreaker,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said. “And when you have a crisis on the border, how hard would it be to show up? But the President says, ‘I don’t do photo-ops.'”
Throughout Kilmeade’s breathless rant, Obama’s actual quote was displayed on the screen.
Kirsten Powers, a Fox News liberal, gave more oxygen to the misquote later on Thursday.
“There’s a very serious issue going on. It’s a serious humanitarian issue. It’s a serious crisis. And I think that, whatever side you’re on in terms of how it should be handled, the President should be engaged,” Powers said on Fox’s “Outnumbered.” “To write it off and say, ‘I don’t do photo-ops.’ Well, we know that’s not true. We know he does photo-ops.”
Update: Slate’s Dave Weigel says his tweet was meant to be a joke and that he doesn’t align himself “with the derpolanche reported by TPM.”