In his annual end-of the-year press conference on Friday, Obama took questions from eight women and no men— a move that did not go unnoticed by journalists and others listening to his remarks.
The president started the conference by joking that White House Press Secretary “Josh [Earnest] gave me the list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice,” and then proceeded to call on eight women from various news organizations. CBS News’ White House correspondent Mark Knoller said on Twitter that TV reporters were advised in advance that Earnest wanted “other reporters not regularly called on to get to question the [president].” The strategy resulted in the likely unprecedented female question sweep in addition to leaving out the major news networks.
On Fox News, White House correspondent Ed Henry joked that he was “outraged for men everywhere” but then admitted seriously that he was not pleased with the questions the women asked.
“Frankly some of the questions just didn’t press him,” he said. “There’s so much going on right now and the questions were trailing off. The president was almost like, let me remember what you asked because it was so unmemorable.”
The eight female journalists asked Obama about Sony’s decision to pull The Interview following threats by North Korea, the deal to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, the state of race relations in the country and the Keystone XL pipeline, which incoming majority leader Mitch McConnell said will be the first matter up for a vote when the new Congress returns from the recess. Notably missing were any questions about the CIA torture report released last week.
While Obama only formally called on women, two men were able to yell out their own questions during the conference. “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” one asked, while a reporter called after Obama as he left the room. “Will you smoke a cigar Mr. President?”