JUNE 30, 2010
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from Hunter College High School regarding a White House effort to deny New York Times education reporter Sharon Otterman access to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s brother Irving, who currently teaches at the New York school. Otterman requested and received permission from both the school and Irving Kagan to attend one of Mr. Kagan’s constitutional law classes before White House Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest intervened. “I’m definitely not comfortable with that at this point,” Earnest wrote to Ms. Otterman on May 11, 2010.
Earnest instructed Irving Kagan in an email on May 11 to direct press inquiries directly to the White House:
This reporter says she has permission from you and from the school to sit in on your class. I’ve articulated my concerns to the [Hunter College public relations representative] Meredith [Halpern] – who now says she agrees with me. I’ve articulated my concerns to the reporter, who’s feeling misled that we’re telling her no and she says she was told yes.
In the future, it’s important to direct all reporter inquiries to the White House. It’ll be easier for you to stay out of the middle of these conversations if you send them directly to us without responding.
Irving Kagan appeared to have no issues with Ms. Otterman’s presence in his classroom. “I told my folks at school I was willing to participate, but only with your agreement. Was that a mistake? If I hadn’t [been] willing to do it, I would have just said no, and not wasted your time.”
There was no indication in any of the documents regarding the White House’s specific objections to Ms. Otterman’s request.
“The Obama White House has no business interfering with independent press investigations of Ms. Kagan,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents show that the Obama White House could care less about transparency on the Kagan nomination and is no friend of an independent media.”
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan graduated from Hunter College High School in 1977.