ink-stained wretches

The White House Helped Edit Michael Lewis’s Barack Obama Story

All-star writer Michael Lewis was allowed to more or less act like Barack Obama’s best friend intermittently for eight months and write about it for Vanity Fair, including rides up front on Air Force One and a stint on the president’s pick-up basketball team, but Lewis had to play by the rules. That included getting White House approval for the quotes he ultimately used, a practice described by the New York Times over the summer, and frowned upon by journalists who question the role access plays in political reporting. In his case, Lewis explained, playing ball meant not harping on the president’s crying.

The Times reports from a talk last night with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter:

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.

If it were up to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Lewis probably would not have been there at all, but “Mr. Lewis recalled Mr. Carney saying, his concerns didn’t matter because the boss wanted to do the story.” Maybe Obama is just a huge Michael Lewis fan and the crying was because of The Blind Side.

White House Approved Vanity Fair Obama Quotes