Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin are entitled to their opinions, which they have plenty of -- in this case about President Obama and his reaction to the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley. They are not, however, to paraphrase the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan, entitled to their own facts, or entitled to invent a scenario in which the White House somehow prompted me to ask Obama about Gates at his press conference last week.
Ann, Michelle, can we get a beer on this? I'll pay. I'll take an Amstel Light. What are your brews? Because gals, you need to look elsewhere for a new conspiracy. Coulter said on FOX News that Obama "had that question planted." She added, "I do have proof." On NBC's "Today Show" on Wednesday morning, host Matt Lauer, asked Malkin, "Do you think this was a planned question?" Replied Malkin, "Absolutely do."
You are both wrong. The Obama White House did not have a clue what I would be asking. (And why again would they want to plant a question that would take him off his health-care message, a question that was likely to get him in hot water, and did?)
The backstory: At Obama's July 22 press conference, I asked Obama about the July 16 arrest of Gates, a noted African-American-studies scholar at Harvard. The arrest had been in the national news, and I asked, "What does that incident say to you? And what does it say about race relations in America?"
Obama triggered an uproar because in answer to my question, he said, "The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home."
By Friday Obama had pulled back from that volatile word, invited Gates and Crowley to the White House and said he wanted to turn this episode into a "teachable" moment when all of them get together with a beer on Thursday.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed on Wednesday that Obama will be drinking Bud Light, Gates will have a Red Stripe and Crowley will be downing a Blue Moon.
Last week, a lot of readers and viewers asked me why and how I came to ask about Gates and many wanted to know if the White House knew my question in advance.
So here it is, the inside scoop: I first got the idea to ask Obama about his reaction to the Gates arrest while on the treadmill at my gym. On the morning PoliticsDaily conference call, my PoliticsDaily colleagues were also talking about asking Obama about Gates and the Cambridge cop if PoliticsDaily was called on at the press conference, because it might elicit something human and real rather than just more health-care talking points. And whatever Obama's reply, it would be news.
The White House didn't need a heads-up from me or anyone else to expect a question about Gates, since the arrest was so much in the national news.
Bret Baier on "FOX News Sunday" asked Gibbs, "Before Wednesday's news conference, did you prepare him for a question about Henry Gates' arrest in Cambridge?"
Replied Gibbs, "Well, look, let's just say, it's safe to say we went over a whole lot of topics that we thought might come up, and certainly, this was a topic that was and has been in the news."
I got a call from the White House about 6:30 p.m. July 22 confirming that indeed I was going to attend the 8 p.m. press conference. I was told I "may" get a question. That was it. End of conversation.
Before leaving for Costa Rica for a family wedding on Friday, I wrote a column about how and why I asked the question because I received many queries from readers and viewers. I wrote what I thought were simple, declarative sentences: "No one asked me -- directly or indirectly -- about what I may be asking. No one from the White House tried to plant any question."
The idea that the Obama media machine would try to plant that question -- or any question-- with me is nutty. If they had, my story would have been about their effort to plant a question. And again, why would they have even tried to orchestrate such an off-message query? By the time Coulter and Malkin spoke with such certainty, I had already said that Obama did not have a clue about what I would be asking.
Obama will hoist a beer with Crowley and Gates Thursday to show, I think, that sometimes people say things they regret. The "teachable" moment may be that conversations don't have to be stuck in the loop of a soundbite.
Obama is trying to take a lemon and make it, well, to paraphrase another famous quote, a beer.
Ladies, can we do the same?