By Justin Sink - 07/13/14 12:19 PM EDT
President Obama is “absolutely” the most transparent president in history, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Sunday after the White House received a letter from signed by a dozen top journalists’ groups complaining about the administration’s policies toward the media.
The letter, signed by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Poynter Institute, among others, accuses the White House of "politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies."
It asks the president to create an ombudsman charged with enforcing his goal of government transparency, and asks Obama "issue a clear directive telling federal employees they're not only free to answer questions from reporters and the public, but actually encouraged to do so.”
“We believe that is one of the most important things you can do for the nation now, before the policies become even more entrenched,” the letter says.
Earnest said he is “definitely committed” to helping “the president live up to his commitment to be the most transparent president in history.”
Earnest noted that previous administrations had “gone to the Supreme Court” to prevent the release of White House visitor information, but that the Obama administration “releases it voluntarily on the Internet on a quarterly basis.”
“Reporters for years clamored to get access to fundraisers the president hosted or attended that were hosted in private homes,” Earnest continued. “Reporters now have access to those when this president goes to a private home.”
Earnest also said the criticism was inherent in the relationship between the press and the administration.
“They're all journalists,” Earnest said. “And if the day that they stopped -- the day that they sort of sit back and say, you know, we don't need to write a letter, the White House is telling us everything that they're supposed to, is the day that they're no longer doing their jobs.”