President Obama keeps trying to test out the journalistic integrity of the White House pool reporters by offering to buy them food at all of the delicious diners, drive ins, and dives he stops at while travelling across the country. For whatever crazy reason, they keep saying no.
Their reasoning behind it is, if they accepted, it could be seen as a bribe for better coverage. Jay-Z can order, and pay for, a fish sandwich for The New York Times' Zadie Smith with no repercussions, but some poor Politico reporter can't get a cookie from the President? Higher ethical standard, my stomach.
This happened today, taken from the pool report written by the Washington Post's Dave Nakamura:
As the employees were wrapping his order, Obama was distracted by Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols, who was telling White House staff that he was leaving $8 to pay for his own sausages that he had taken from the deli trays.
“I left $8. I’m not stealing these,” Nichols said, waving the package.
“Am I paying for those?” Obama asked. Nichols informed him that he had left an estimated amount of money.
“How do you know it’s enough?” Obama asked.
“I left $8. That’s good, solid American currency. I estimated but if it’s not enough I know you’re good for it,” Nichols said.
The pool was escorted out. Later, as the pool was standing outside waiting for the president to come out, deputy press secretary Josh Earnest came out and handed Nichols $4 in change.
Obama offering to buy food for the press, with the press politely declining, has been kind of a running gag on the campaign trail. Take this pool report, from July 5, written by Time's Michael Scherer:
Obama asked the press if anyone wanted a peach. Your pool said he would would not want to accept a peach without paying for it, lest it be considered a bribe for good coverage. "You think a peach and I get a better column?" he responded, skeptically and laughing. No peaches were purchased for the press.
The day after offering to buy them peaches, Obama went to a diner in Ohio and perusing the selection of delicious apple pies and cookies. When he offered to buy some for the press and they all declined, he offered a compromise. “Why don’t we get a dozen chocolate chip cookies and send them on the press bus, and I won’t know if you guys ate them, all right?" he asked. "I know the photographers will eat them. Those guys have no shame," he added.
There was another time in early August when the press wouldn't take POTUS up on an offer for snow cones. Delicious snow cones! In August! In the middle of Iowa! Surely one of them would snap. And yet, despite Obama ribbing Reuters' Jeff Mason ("Mason? It must be hot under that hat."), no one took him up on the offer. (I can't say I would have been so... noble.)
There's this from an August 21 pool report at Sloppy's Diner in Ohio by the L.A. Times' Micahel Memoli:
He stopped to place an order, which diner employee later related was a classic reuben with potato chips, and a piece of Buckeye Pie (peanut butter and chocolate filling with whipped cream). As he ordered he asked aide Marvin Nicholson if he wanted something. The answer was yes, and the order a burger with American cheese. POTUS offered to buy for the pool but no takers.
If you ever had any questions about the integrity of the white house press pool, wonder no more. Know that the way to their heart is not through their stomach.