The President Calls Sandra Fluke - Today's Q's for O's WH - 3/2/2012
TAPPER: President Obama called the Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke within the hour. Why did he call her and what did he tell her?
CARNEY: I - it was actually more recent than that. It was probably about 20 minutes ago.
TAPPER: That's "within the hour."
CARNEY: Sorry. You're right. It was within the hour. I just know that this is what I was - I was in the Oval when he did, and that's one of the things that delayed the briefing.
The president called Georgetown University law student - Sandra Fluke* I think is actually how you pronounce it - because he wanted to offer his support to her. He wanted to express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks and to thank her for exercising her rights as a citizen to speak out on an issue of public policy. And it was a - it was a very good conversation.
TAPPER: Is that all you can tell us about the conversation?
CARNEY: Well, I mean, I think so. It wasn't - you know, it was several minutes. They had a very good conversation. I think he, like a lot of people, feels that the kinds of personal attacks that she's - that have been directed her way are inappropriate. It's - the fact that our political discourse is - has become debased in many ways is bad enough. It is worse when it's directed at a private citizen who was simply expressing her views on a - on a - on a matter of public policy.
TAPPER: It is appropriate for Democratic organizations to try to raise money off of the - this attack on her?
CARNEY: I think that I'll leave that to the - whatever organizations might agree with her or sympathize with her. The fact of the matter is the president was expressing his support for her and his disappointment in the kind of attacks that had been leveled at her - to her, and his appreciation for her willingness to, you know, sort of stand tall and express her opinion.
TAPPER: One last question on this same subject, although not on Ms. Fluke. Is - Vice President Biden, at Iowa State University, was referring to the conscience debate about contraception. And he said that it "got screwed up" - that's a quote from the vice president. Why did it get screwed up?
CARNEY: Well, I think, as you remember, when the president came out and made his announcement about - from this podium about what - the approach he was going to take and direct his administration to take with regards to religious institutions like colleges, universities and hospitals, the idea from the beginning, which we attempted to make clear, was that there was going to be a yearlong period where we would work to achieve a resolution to this that would preserve religious liberty and still provide the contraceptive services to women no matter where they work.
What was clear, as the president, I think, was pretty explicit about when he was here, is that for whatever reason, the debate was such that it became imperative in his mind that we come up with that resolution in a far quicker period of time. And that's what we did, because he felt it very important that people understand that he took the religious liberty issue very seriously. As he expressed here from the podium, his own experience with faith-based organizations when he was a young man demonstrated to him the importance that they have in our public life.
And he believed very clearly that we could extend this important health care coverage to all women no matter where they work and do it in a way that still found that balance to preserve religious liberty.
*Rhymes with "look."