NBC: 'Escalating Battle' Between White House and Press Corps Over Obama's 'Pure Propaganda'

Getting a glimpse of the kind of real reporting that can occur on NBC Nightly News when Brian Williams isn't in the anchor chair, on Sunday's edition of the program, weekend anchor Lester Holt informed viewers that "official photo releases" from the Obama administration were "at the center of an escalating battle between the White House and the news media over access and image control." [Listen to the audio]

In the report that followed, White House correspondent Kristen Welker cited National Journal's Ron Fournier calling "images like these pure propaganda, arguing the Obama White House consistently blocks journalists from events they routinely covered in previous administrations." A sound bite followed of Fournier warning: "The White House is getting most of the control. That's not healthy for democracy."

Welker explained: "Thirty-eight media organizations, including NBC News, recently joined in a letter to the White House charging, 'The administration is blocking the public from having an independent view of the Executive Branch of government.'"

Despite objecting to the practice, NBC and the rest of the media have consistently been willing accomplices in promoting official White House photos throughout the Obama presidency.

Near the end of the report, Welker declared: "It's not only the press cameras being shuttered. The President often ducking impromptu questions, denying the media unscripted answers that might be newsworthy." A clip played of Towson University Professor Martha Joynt Kumar lamenting: "His [Obama's] promises – consistent promise of a transparent administration led people to believe that the access would be different, it would be greater."

Here is a full transcript of the December 15 report:

6:41PM ET

LESTER HOLT: President Obama of course paid his respects to Nelson Mandela when he spoke at a memorial service in Johannesburg on Tuesday. And you may have seen these photos released by the White House, taken aboard Air Force One on the journey to South Africa. Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled with the Obamas.

Well, official photo releases like these are now at the center of an escalating battle between the White House and the news media over access and image control. Our White House correspondent Kristen Welker has more.

KRISTEN WELKER: This summer, the President and his former secretary of state had lunch at the White House – a newsworthy event – but the news media weren't invited in. The only one given access? The official White House photographer.

RON FOURNIER [NATIONAL JOURNAL]: We're the first eyes and ears for the public. And if we're not getting access to the President, the public's not getting access to the President.

WELKER: Veteran Washington journalist Ron Fournier calls images like these pure propaganda, arguing the Obama White House consistently blocks journalists from events they routinely covered in previous administrations. The most recent example, those photos of the historic Air Force One trip by two presidents to Nelson Mandela's funeral, captured only through a White House lens while the press corps was in the back of the plane.

FOURNIER: The White House is getting most of the control. That's not healthy for democracy.

WELKER: Thirty-eight media organizations, including NBC News, recently joined in a letter to the White House charging, "The administration is blocking the public from having an independent view of the Executive Branch of government."

Last week the fight boiled over in the briefing room, with Press Secretary Jay Carney insisting the President values the independent media.

JAY CARNEY: We're going to work with the press and with the photographers to try to address some of their concerns.

WELKER: Historically presidents have tried to control their image through official photos, but social media has made this government's PR push a lot easier.

STEVEN THOMMA [WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT]: The availability of Twitter, Flickr to release things directly to the public allows them to do it without any filter of the media.

WELKER: But it's not only the press cameras being shuttered. The President often ducking impromptu questions, denying the media unscripted answers that might be newsworthy.

PROFESSOR MARTHA JOYNT KUMAR [TOWSON UNIVERSITY]: His promises – consistent promise of a transparent administration led people to believe that the access would be different, it would be greater.

WELKER: Now a study by Towson University's Martha Joynt Kumar, who you just saw there, found President Obama answered fewer shouted questions than Presidents Bush or Clinton but has had more one-on-one interviews. Press Secretary Jay Carney will meet with journalists to discuss the issue on Tuesday. Lester.

HOLT: Kristen Welker, thank you.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.