Records: Journalist behind book critical of Obamas had White House access

Jodi Kantor, author of “The Obamas,” enjoyed plenty of access to the president’s senior aides, according to White House visitor records.

The New York Times reporter had at least 34 visits to the White House complex, the records show — similar to if not more than other journalists who have written tomes about the Obama administration.

Despite that cooperation, the White House has aggressively pushed back against her book.

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The records show Kantor had meetings with key White House advisers like Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser who is considered close to both President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. The reporter also visited David Axelrod, the president’s senior political aide who has since left the White House.

Kantor also had meetings with members of the first lady's staff — such as chief of staff Tina Tchen, senior aide Jocelyn Frye, and Susan Sher, who served as the first lady’s chief of staff in the past, according to the records.

In an email to The Hill, Kantor said she was surprised by the White House reaction to her book.

“I was clear on themes and lines of inquiry, and the White House cooperated quite a lot,” she said.

The White House has not been happy with her tome though.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters the book over-hyped conflicts between staff.

“I think that books like these generally over-sensationalize things. … The atmosphere and collegiality here is much better than any of the White Houses I've covered. And that's been the case from day one here and continues to be the case,” Carney said.

The book depicts the first lady being unhappy at times with the president’s staff, especially after the loss of the Senate Democrats’ 60-seat majority with the special election of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), and being frustrated at times with life in the White House.

In a television interview, Michelle Obama disputed parts of the book and said she loved her job as first lady. Kantor did not interview either of the Obamas for the book although she had interviewed them in the past for stories she wrote for The New York Times.

“I'm a little mystified by this, but she also said she didn't read the book, so perhaps she is reacting to the coverage of the book, some of which has sensationalized and distorted the reporting,” Kantor said.

Kantor said a few of the White House visits detailed in the records were for reporting for The New York Times, not for the book. Kantor also said many of her interviews for the book were conducted outside of the White House or by the phone. It also appears two of Kantor’s White House visits were for holiday parties, according to the records.

White House officials have said in the past that visitor records have limitations and were never designed for public disclosure by the Secret Service. Further, the visitor logs released so far only go up to September of this year.

A White House spokesman said Kantor’s request for access to senior aides was accommodated like other media requests the press office receives.

“We handle book requests like all press requests. Reporters generally ask for full access and we try to accommodate here and there best we can,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.

A review of White House visitor records shows that Kantor enjoyed similar access to the administration’s senior aides when compared to other journalists who have written books about the Obama administration.

Jonathan Alter, who wrote “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” has stopped by the White House at least 34 times now, according to the visitor records.

Ron Suskind — whose book, “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President,” also underwent White House pushback — was in the White House complex at least 19 times.

And Bob Woodward, who wrote “Obama’s Wars,” stopped by the White House at least 16 times.