Veteran journalist Les Kinsolving may not have a nightly cable TV talk show or a New York Times op-ed column, but he’s a media legend and workhorse who has dogged both Republican and Democrat administrations for decades. ...On Monday, Kinsolving tore into Robert Gibbs over his staged briefings and the president’s aversion to press conferences (h/t Tommy Christopher at Mediaite/related interview with Kinsolving here). Kinsolving also hit Gibbs with a question at the end of the exchange about my column on Mexico’s immigration policies. Thank you, Mr. Kinsolving, for being our voice against Washington’s culture of corruption.Here's the video:
(partial excerpt of transcript)
Q Thank you very much. In view of President Franklin Roosevelt’s 998 press conferences, why has President Obama held not a single White House press conference since last July?Wow! That is something when the lapdogs in the White House Press Corps actually applaud someone they look down their noses upon, because he's not one of the media elites.
MR. GIBBS: Lester, what would you — let me ask you this. Can I ask you just — I just have one question.
Q You can ask me as many as you wish.
MR. GIBBS: Excellent. I’m just going to use one. When the President took eight questions from members of the White House press corps at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Washington Convention Center, what would you call that?
Q That was not a press conference.
MR. GIBBS: What would you call it?
Q It was a select few.
MR. GIBBS: A select few what?
Q A select few reporters. It was not a White House press conference. That was my question.
MR. GIBBS: Well, can I ask another question? I do want to — I’m going to –
Q Of course you can.
MR. GIBBS: I’m going to — can I take Chip’s thing and just ask one more? What differently do you think the President would have done at the Nuclear Security Summit in taking the eight questions from members of the White House press corps that might have denoted — might have tripped your definition of a press conference?
Q It would be a wonderful thing if he had allowed all reporters — just it would be wonderful if you would allow these front-rowers two questions and then go all the way back to the back and then come back and let them start again. That would be fair. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you very much.
But that is Les Kinsolving, an individual who can only be called "courageous," for daring to ask questions no one else in the modern media dares to ask and has been willing to rock the boat.
I just finished reading a very well-written biography of Kinsolving written by his daughter, Kathleen, entitled "Gadfly, The Life and Times of Les Kinsolving, White House Watchdog." This book should be read by any student of journalism, media observer or concerned citizen who feels they are being lied to and manipulated by media mogouls.
Kinsolving has had what can only be described as anything but dull. Entering the ministry (he is from a family of Episcopalian bishops), he rocked the church boat by preaching controversial sermons, until he felt another calling; as a writer. He became a religion reporter and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and later the San Francisco Examiner and embodied the true meaning of American journalism: don't take anything at face value, and question everything.
Dan Rather liked to say the word "courage" after his CBS Newscasts, but Kinsolving showed true courage as he became suspicious of a faith-healer in the Bay Area who was attracting a large following in 1972. He exposed the "church," but his editors at the Examiner decided not to examine the congregation anymore, after they held a picket line outside the newspaper and threatened lawsuits. The Kinsolving home was burglarized and he ended up as number two on the "pastor's" hit list. Nine hundred, mostly black, residents of the Bay Area might be alive today if his editors had not stopped that expose, which was one of the first of the Reverend Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, six years before Jones oversaw the deaths of his followers in South America.
As a political writer who has covered the White House since the Nixon Administration, Kinsolving has not been one to go easy on one side and tough on the other. To the contrary, he's been tough on all the Presidents he's covered, as well as their press secretaries. It's probably that tough questioning of the Obama White House that led the White House Correspondent's Association giving Kinsolving and WorldNetDaily (whom he writes for) the cold shoulder when it came to getting a table to the Correspondent's dinner this past Saturday, taking their check for one table and offering two chairs instead.
I first heard of Les Kinsolving when he subbed for Michael Weiner (in the days when Weiner was worth listening to) on KSFO and became a fan. I occasionally listen to his WCBM radio show, and enjoy reading his WorldNetDaily column. You may not agree with everything he says, but you have to appreciate how he makes you think, and he doesn't take anything at face value.
A lot of people in the media today could learn a thing or two from Les Kinsolving, as far as I'm concerned.