Obama to Reporter: Sorry I Called You “Sweetie”

By Saira Anees

May 15, 2008 11:16am

FROM GUEST-BLOGGER RICK KLEIN, OF ABC’S THE NOTE

Really? He calls people "sweetie"? And this is a "habit"?

A little flare-up out of Sen. Barack Obama’s Michigan visit: A (female) reporter for ABC’s Detroit affiliate, WXYZ-TV, shouted a question in Obama’s direction yesterday, inquiring about Obama’s plans to help American autoworkers. Obama didn’t feel like answering at the time — not unusual, since Obama likes to answer questions at structured "avails," or media availabilities, if fielding questions at all, while on the trail.

Obama’s response: "Hold on one second, sweetie, we’re going to do — we’ll do a press avail."

First, the easy stuff: Obama never did do that "avail," and never did answer reporter Peggy Agar’s question, which (if it matters) was substantive and relevant to Obama’s visit that day.

Then, the harder stuff: Obama actually called a reporter "sweetie."

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe I’ve ever used that term. My mother calls me "sweetie" from time to time. She’s my mom. It’s not a slur, but in a professional setting? I’m fairly certain that Obama would flunk basic corporate training if he used a term like that to refer to a female colleague.

Obama (or one of his aides) realized the mistake, and the candidate himself called Agar and left a voicemail that started by apologizing for not answering her question.

"I broke my word, I apologize for that, and I will make up for it," Obama said.

Then the meat: "Second apology is for using the word ‘sweetie.’ That’s a bad habit of mine. I do it sometimes with all kinds of people. I mean no disrespect and so I am duly chastened on that front. Feel free to call me back. I expect that my press team will be happy to try to make it up to you whenever we are in Detroit next."

This would seem like the kind of "bad habit" Obama may want to break at some point, like smoking.

The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg points out that Obama has used the word "sweetie" at least once before on the trail, referring to a female factory worker in Allentown, Pa., last month.

While we’re breaking the bad habits, how about media access? Sen. John McCain just gave a speech where he promised to give weekly press conferences as president — and he gives just-about daily (and sometimes far more than that) casual and formal access to the press as a candidate. Anyone think the different styles WON’T catch up with Obama at some point in the general election? Even after this, the most he can say is that he expects his press team to "try to make it up to you" next time he’s in town?

Listen to the voicemail, and see the exchange with the reporter, HERE (click on the video player to the right).

Don’t miss Agar’s response, toward the end of her TV spot: "This ‘sweetie’ never did get an answer to that question."

– Rick Klein

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