Press corps gripes over Clintons' secret home-buying excursions

WASHINGTON: The White House Press Office has been criticized in recent weeks for not alerting the press to several of President Clinton's trips away from the White House.

WASHINGTON: The White House Press Office has been criticized in recent weeks for not alerting the press to several of President Clinton's trips away from the White House.

WASHINGTON: The White House Press Office has been criticized in recent weeks for not alerting the press to several of President Clinton's trips away from the White House.

In particular, on December 16 and 23, the president and Senator-elect Hillary Clinton (D-NY) went house-hunting in the DC area - and both times reporters were not informed until after the fact.

The controversy stems from an agreement reached between the White House and the press corps following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Both sides decided at the time that whenever the president left White House grounds, a small, rotating pool of reporters would accompany him.

White House press secretary Jake Siewart apologized for the lapses last week. In a press briefing on December 27, he stated: 'The system broke down over the house-hunting, but we are going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen again.'

However, members of the press were insistent that this was not a lapse, but rather an intentional slight. Ed Chen, White House reporter for the Los Angeles Times and board member of the White House Correspondents Association, said: 'I think it's a privacy thing, wanting to find a new home. Let's just hope this isn't something we see a lot of in the final 30 days of his term.'

Asked precisely how the system broke down, Siewart would say only that he was 'not going to get into finger-pointing over this.'

According to Chen, the long-standing - if unofficial - agreement serves the interests of the president as much as it does the press. 'It is helpful to the president because it prevents a mob scene from gathering wherever he goes,' he said. 'Instead, a small and relatively discreet pool of reporters go with him.'

Siewart later announced the Clintons were in final negotiations to buy a dollars 3.5 million, six-bedroom colonial-style house in northwest Washington, DC.



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