The journalist who sparked a ruckus inside the Beltway and on Twitter by interrupting President Barack Obama's formal remarks on immigration wants the world to know it was all a big misunderstanding. The Daily Caller's Neil Munro implausibly claims that he never meant to cut off the president and thought he was finished speaking.
"I timed the question believing the president was closing his remarks, because naturally I have no intention of interrupting the President of the United States," Munro said in a statement on the Daily Caller's website after his Rose Garden showdown with Obama.
"A reporter's job is to ask questions and get answers," said the site's editor in chief, Tucker Carlson. "Our job is to find out what the federal government is up to. Politicians often don't want to tell us. A good reporter gets the story. We're proud of Neil Munro."
The Daily Caller's publisher, Neil Patel, also chimed in: Munro "in no way meant to heckle the President of the United States."
"We are very proud of, @NeilMunroDC for doing his job," the Daily Caller said on its official Twitter feed.
But reporters near Munro during the outburst said, well, not so much to the whole "didn't mean to interrupt" the president thing. Many took to Twitter to share their doubts. "I was two people over from Neil Munro. No one thought the president was wrapping up. I give that statement a great big Cow Pie Award," Brianna Keilar of CNN said on Twitter.
"I was standing right behind Munro in the Rose Garden," said Todd Zwillich, Washington correspondent for The Takeaway from Public Radio International, on Twitter. "Idea he 'mistimed' his questions isn't credible. He purposely interrupted."
"Munro told other reporters after Obama's statement, 'I'm asking questions. Because you people won't,'" Zwillich tweeted.
The official White House transcript of the event records that, after a visibly irritated Obama told Munro "Excuse me, sir. It's not time for questions, sir," the journalist replied: "No, you have to take questions."
"Not while I'm speaking," the president replied.
At the end of his remarks, Obama directed some of his remarks to Munro, who ultimately had the last word — or at least the last unanswered shouted question: "What about American workers who are unemployed while you import foreigners?"
Munro breached a longstanding — but unwritten — rule among White House correspondents: Don't interrupt the president's formal remarks. It is common for White House aides to tell reporters that there will be no questions at a given public event. And it is routine for those reporters to ignore that admonition and call out a question anyway, though always after the president is finished speaking. Presidents typically overlook those queries, smile, wave, and repeat "thank you" before leaving or they let their aides try to sheep-dog the press away.
But sometimes journalists get an answer (or at least a reply). That was the case in the Oval Office on Friday when, after Obama's cheerfully dismissive "thank you everybody," a reporter asked about Mitt Romney's attacks over Obama's "the private sector is doing fine" remark. The president responded with a long clarification of his earlier statements. (And sometimes the shouted question is yelled on principle rather than with the expectation of an answer.)