"The Obamas," New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor's upcoming book about the Obama administration, is causing some controversy over its depiction of tensions among White House staffers and First Lady Michelle Obama--and over Kantor's claim that the White House wanted to keep an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed 2009 Halloween party secret.
According to the book, due to be published Tuesday by Little, Brown, White House personnel were keen to shield the planning for the Halloween bash from public view:
White House officials were so nervous about how a splashy, Hollywood-esque party would look to jobless Americans—or their representatives in Congress, who would soon vote on health care—that the event was not discussed publicly and [Tim] Burton's and [Johnny] Depp's contributions went unacknowledged.
On Monday, associate communications director Eric Schultz issued a lengthy rebuttal on the White House blog under the headline, "Gossip in Wonderland":
The book is about a relationship between two people whom the author has not spoken to in years. In fact, the author did not interview the Obamas for the book so the emotions and private moments described in the book, though often seemingly ascribed to the President and First Lady, reflect little more than the author's own thoughts. These second-hand accounts are staples of every Administration in modern political history and are often exaggerated.
[The party] was an event for local school children from the Washington DC area and for hundreds of military families, and certainly nothing that the White House was ashamed of. We would invite all readers to read that extremely detailed and colorful pool report, or the stories that emerged from the party, and decide for themselves. In addition, the event was previewed in the official White House Daily Guidance and discussed by then-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on camera from the podium--before he dressed up as Darth Vader at the party of course.
The White House released videos and photos of the event on whitehouse.gov and our Flickr account, hardly the actions of a conspiratorial cover-up.
CNN's Soledad O'Brien used her "Get Real" segment to rip Kantor's claims:
You take a look at--and it's not hard, with a Google search you can find that CNN covered the party. NBC covered the party. Reuters covered the party. The Associated Press covered the party. USA Today covered the party and the Chicago Sun Times also covered the very, very top secret party.
We asked the White House if they tried to keep it a secret, they said, well, not really. There's a video of the party on the official White House website. Take a look at that. Johnny Depp's fan site had a post about his appearance at the party.
So for a secret keeping of this White House Halloween party with Hollywood celebs, not so secret. Maybe it wasn't a secret at all, Ms. Kantor. You might want to "Get Real" on that.
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