The Press Corps Wears Prada

(CBS)
Move over, Mr. Blackwell. Here's George W. Bush, fashion critic.

Once again, the President used his latest news conference to needle some of those who write about him and his policies in sometimes unflattering ways.

The ribbing began early in the hour-long news conference staged in the Rose Garden.

First to get the treatment was Kevin Corke of NBC News.

"If I might say, that is a beautiful suit," the president told the correspondent filling in for his colleague David Gregory.

"Thank you sir. My tailor appreciates that," Corke replied.

Mr. Bush didn't let it drop.

"And I can't see anybody else that even comes close," he said, eyeing the attire of the rest of the press corps.

But when he spotted the suit being sported by Suzanne Malveaux of CNN, Mr. Bush corrected himself and called on her next.

"Suzanne. First best-dressed person here," he said apologetically -- bestowing on her the praise he had previously lavished on Corke.

"Kevin and I coordinated," she joked in response.

The presidential criticim was a little more blunt when he called on my colleague Jim Axelrod, the CBS News Chief White House Correspondent.

He tried to get the upper hand by telling the President "my best suit is in the cleaners." But to no avail.

"That's not even a suit," said Mr. Bush in mock indignation that a reporter would show up in slacks and a blazer.

Axelrod tried to volley with the Chief Executive.

"You've got to give me more time in the morning with a news conference," Axelrod teased. Reporters were only informed about 8:45AM that there would be a news conference at 11

But Mr Bush didn't let Axelrod off the hook.

"I know you like to wake up about 8:30 a.m."

Not to be outdone, he needled Axelrod further with the words "high-priced news guy."

"Yeah, sure," responded Axelrod before finally being allowed to pose his question.

It didn't end there. As Pres. Bush was answering the question, Axelrod tried to interrupt with a follow-up, but got shut down fast.

"Let me finish please for a second," demanded Mr Bush in a no-nonsense tone..

Adding insult to injury, he said "Plus, I couldn't hear you, but I saw you talking."

A news conference gives the President a chance he obviously relishes to rib the press.

At one point, he evidently wasn't sure he could correctly pronounce the name of National Public Radio correspondent Don Gonyea, so he called on him with the words: "Mister N-P-R."

A similar fate befell Washington Post writer Michael Abramowitz.

"Washington Post man" said the President to identify his next questioner.

Checking his seating chart again, Mr. Bush called Abramowitz by his first name. Sort of.

"That would be Mike."

"Right," said Michael.

Clearly, Pres. Bush still had AP's Terry Hunt on his mind when he called next on Steve Holland of Reuters.

"Terry. I mean -- you're not Terry. You're Steve."

"Insult, I know," he added with a two-for-one poke at two stalwarts of the press corps who usually get the first and second questions at most presidential press conferences.

I can attest that the only thing worse than being called on by the President when he's in a playful mood – is not being called on.

I sat in the third row. I thought I had established good eye contact with him – letting him see I was ready to be called on.

I would have been happy to be teased about my haircut. Or beard. Or the dockers I was wearing with a navy blue blazer. But no. I got stiffed.

"Thank you for your interest," the President said ending the news conference.

Sure we're interested. We're paid to be.


  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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