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White House Got Some Say Over Journalist's Obama Story

12:21 PM, Sep 11, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Vanity Fair writer Michael Lewis agreed to allow the White House to approve the quotations he used from President Barack Obama in his story about the president in this month's magazine.

"Like other journalists who write about Washington and presidential politics, Mr. Lewis said that he had to submit to the widespread but rarely disclosed practice of quote approval," reports the New York Times.

During a discussion at Lincoln Center on Monday night with Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, Mr. Lewis volunteered to the audience that as a condition of cooperating with his story, the White House insisted on signing off on the quotes that would appear.

Mr. Lewis said that ultimately the White House disallowed very little of what he asked to use. And he described having  access to the president that was unusually unfettered. About 95 percent of what he witnessed was on the record, he said.

What the White House asked to leave off the record, Mr. Lewis added, was usually of little relevance to his article anyway — like a discussion between Mr. Obama and his political strategists about their electoral strategy in Florida.

Mr. Lewis said there was one particularly moving exchange with the president that he wished he could have described in greater detail. But the White House nixed the idea, perhaps wary of having the commander in chief described as in tears.

Mr. Lewis declined to delve into too much detail because he said he did not want to violate the ground rules he agreed to, but he did offer that the president explained to him how the job exacts a heavy emotional toll. The president told Mr. Lewis how one evening after a particularly trying day, he sat down to watch a movie and surprised himself by suddenly tearing up.

The Times reports that White House press secretary Jay Carney, a former journalist, was uncomfortable with having a journalist around the president of the United States.

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