Plouffe: 'I Give Speeches In Public, Some Not'

ABC News' Teddy Davis & Ferdous Al-Faruque report:

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe delivered an "off-the-record" speech at the National Press Club on Feb. 12, 2009, prompting a letter of complaint from the organization's president. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank (left) confronted Plouffe (right) following his remarks.Ferdous Al-Faruque/ ABC News

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe came under fire Thursday for insisting that a speech he delivered at the National Press Club as part of a two-day "Transitions 2009" conference be "off-the-record".   

"I give speeches in public, some not," Plouffe told The Washington Post's Dana Milbank following his speech. "These were the terms under which I was told to come in."

"It was sponsored by Georgetown as you know, not by Politico," Plouffe added.

Georgetown spokesman Andy Pino told ABC News that it was Plouffe's preference, not the university's, that members of the press be blocked from reporting on the remarks of Obama's campaign manager.

As recently as Monday, Georgetown's Office of Communications was credentialing reporters for Plouffe's remarks.

By Tuesday, Georgetown's media staff began notifying reporters that Plouffe was off limits per his request even though the rest of the conference, which included a discussion with three former White House chiefs of staff, was still on the record.

"To any media in the room, it's been requested that these remarks be off the record," said Rob Manuel, the dean of Georgetown University's School of Continuing Education, during his introduction of Plouffe.

While Georgetown organized the paid event, Plouffe's talk was originally billed as being co-hosted by Politico similar to the rest of the two-day conference.

When conference attendees arrived Thursday morning, Georgetown staff distributed copies of the day's agenda advertising Politico editor-in-chief John F. Harris as the moderator of Plouffe's luncheon keynote address. Plouffe was supposed to deliver prepared remarks. Harris was then supposed to moderate questions from the audience.

Politico learned Tuesday that Plouffe had told Georgetown University that he wanted his speech to be off the record.

The political news site worked with Georgetown University right up until Plouffe's Thursday remarks to get the architect of Obama's White House win to reconsider.

In an interview with ABC News, Harris said that Politico did not want to be in the business of co-sponsoring an off-the-record talk with a newsworthy person.

"I'm not trying to be on a high horse on this," said Harris. "I can appreciate the bind that Georgetown was in. But I couldn't participate in an off-the-record conversation. It seemed pointless to me."

To showcase his displeasure with Plouffe's off-the-record policy, Milbank stood outside of the National Press Club's ballroom wearing a sandwich board on which he had written: "unPLOUFFable: what the Plouffe?"

Milbank then handed out reporters' notebooks and pens to the lunch participants as they were walking into the National Press Club's ballroom, urging them to take notes on Plouffe's remarks and promising to cite their account of the speech in a future Washington Post column.

Shortly before Plouffe began speaking, the president of the National Press Club registered her displeasure with Plouffe's off-the-record policy by e-mailing him a letter of complaint.

"Blacking out news coverage of this speech would not only reduce the free flow of information that is at the core of the National Press Club's mission," wrote NPC president Donna Leinwand. "It also would run contrary to the spirit of President Obama's recent executive order and statements in support of a more open government."

UPDATE: Plouffe Associate Moves to Quell Press Club Flap

On Thursday evening, an associate with Plouffe's AKPD media firm attempted to quell Plouffe's flap at the National Press Club by providing ABC News with a copy of a redacted contract signed with Georgetown University on Dec. 19, 2008.

The contract stipulates that Plouffe's "portion of the program will be closed to the media."

Read more here.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...