News media relations with Obama hit low ebb over golf weekend

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Relations between the White House and the correspondents who cover it, always edgy and adversarial, have hit a low ebb in a dispute over whether the press should have access to the President during his downtime.

The news media are still demanding answers for a White House decision over the weekend to bar reporters from seeing any part of President Barack Obama's Florida golf vacation, including his first-ever round with Tiger Woods.

In a formal protest, the White House Correspondents'Association cited history and tradition in arguing that the public interest is ill-served by shielding the president from the press.

"There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency," said Mr Ed Henry, a Fox News correspondent who is president of the White House Correspondents' Association.

White House spokesman Jay Carney pushed back against questions about access during his daily news briefing on Tuesday.

Mr Carney, a former White House correspondent for Time magazine who covered the presidencies of Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George W. Bush, said he understood the concerns but doubted there had ever been a White House press corps completely satisfied with its access.

"We work very closely with all of you to try to provide access to the President. I would note that when I was covering President Bush, George W. Bush, I was on his first trip on Air Force One... He came back and spoke to the pool. That was his first trip. For the next three years that I covered the President, he never came back again," Mr Carney said.

The golf episode came as tension was already building between reporters and the White House press office about the flow of information as Obama begins his second term.

Mr Obama has called his administration the most transparent in history, but the President himself has sharply reduced a fixture of White House press coverage, the brief question-and-answer session that reporters have used for decades to get the president's take on fast-moving daily events.

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