French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly told US President Barack Obama that he could not "stand" Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that he thinks the Israeli premier "is a liar."This is a big story, and others are all over it. But there is another troubling aspect to the story that is being overlooked.
According to a Monday report in the French website "Arret sur Images," after facing reporters for a G20 press conference on Thursday, the two presidents retired to a private room, to further discuss the matters of the day.
The conversation then drifted to Netanyahu, at which time Sarkozy declared: "I cannot stand him. He is a liar." According to the report, Obama replied: "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!"
The remark was naturally meant to be said in confidence, but the two leaders' microphones were accidently left on, making the would-be private comment embarrassingly public.
The communication faux pas went unnoticed for several minutes, during which the conversation between the two heads of state – which quickly reverted to other matters – was all but open to members the press, who were still in possession of headsets provided by the Elysée for the sake of simultaneous translation during the G20 press conference.
"By the time the (media) services at the Elysée realize it, it was on for at least three minutes," one journalist told the website.
The conversation happened on November 3rd. The story was only reported yesterday, November 7th, and then only because a French media watchdog website broke the story.
Which means that none of the journalists who were there reported about this explosive story.
The surprising lack of coverage may be explained by a report alleging that journalists present at the event were requested to sign an agreement to keep mum on the embarrassing comments. A Reuters reporter was among the journalists present and can confirm the veracity of the comments.Ah, so it was an ethical thing. Because of "sensitivity."
A member of the media confirmed Monday that "there were discussions between journalists and they agreed not to publish the comments due to the sensitivity of the issue."
He added that while it was annoying to have to refrain from publishing the information, the journalists are subject to precise rules of conduct.
While I cannot find anything in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics to preclude reporting on a story like this, I guess we should trust their judgment that some open mic stories are fair game and others are way over the line. (There was another time that Obama kept his mic open and journalists reported on what he said, but he didn't say anything embarrassing.)
Under the same circumstances, these ethical journalists would no doubt have kept quiet about similarly indiscreet comments from, say, George W. Bush or Dick Cheney, and they would have happily signed an agreement muzzling them from reporting them.
And there would have been no news reports about how outrageous it is for world leaders to demand that something embarrassing to them be kept quiet.
(h/t amiyena for Bush link)