Statements from White House officials are a predictable ingredient in most news stories about the Obama administration. Even when anonymous staffers have nothing to say on the matter being discussed, reporters feel duty-bound to note their silence. Although a sentence that merely notes that “White House officials declined” to comment on something feels like filler, journalists often use it as a way to hint at the unpredictability or seriousness of the issue at hand.
However, not all questions ignored by the White House relate to pressing matters of national importance. The Obama administration gets asked about some strange stuff, much of which they also decline to comment on. While silence from the executive branch feels weighty in articles about policy battles, it doesn’t have quite the same effect in stories about the White House’s position on hug disclosure or the logistics of dining out.
Here’s an appreciation of the odder examples of White House officials declining to comment, and the weird questions that must have led to them.
- “Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama sat at the same table during the party, a birthday celebration for Mr. Jordan’s wife, Ann, at the Farm Neck Golf Club. The president and his former top diplomat ate surf ’n’ turf and pasta, but White House officials declined to say whether they hugged.”
- “White House officials declined to disclose exactly who was responsible for the thrown elbow, or how the president reacted immediately.”
- “White House officials declined to discuss how condolence statements are issued.”
- “White House officials declined to comment on the logistics of dining out, citing security reasons.”
- “White House officials declined to comment about the unauthorized use of the dog’s likeness, but ITK suspects that, much as they do for the human residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., they do not approve.”
- “On Monday, White House officials declined to explain Obama’s rationale for deciding this disaster is worse than the others.”
- “White House officials declined to say which of the island’s golf courses was hosting the president.”
- “Jubilant White House officials declined to speak about the political ramifications of killing bin Laden, but most in — and outside — the building seemed to agree that Obama’s anemic poll numbers were about to get a sizable bump.”
- “White House officials declined Monday to estimate the size of the package.”
- “As for which agencies are lagging behind, a polite White House official declined to say.”
- “Though senior White House officials declined to give further details of the PSA during a call with reporters, the White House said the campaign would be particularly focused on getting young men involved.”
- “A senior White House official declined to confirm the existence of the letter.”
- “White House officials declined to say why they chose the resort, beyond Ms. Psaki’s observation that ‘it’s a place where there’s ample space and nice peace and quiet.’”
- “White House officials declined to comment on the daughters’ whereabouts Monday, but ahead of the president’s trip aides had said the daughters would remain in Washington so as not to miss school.”
- “But White House officials declined to offer any explanation of the handshake or confirm that there had been a discussion about whether to offer one.”
- “White House officials declined to describe the tone or the substance of the talks or to say if any agreements had been proposed or reached.”
- “White House officials declined to be specific, but said they would try to eliminate incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas.”
- “White House officials declined to elaborate on what role, if any, the White House played in Sony’s decision to reverse itself, but pointed out that Obama had stated publicly that he believed Sony’s earlier decision to cancel the release was a mistake.”