The Art of Denying Cabinet Rumors

White House press secretary Jay Carney talks to reporters during regular press briefings at the White House. White House press secretary Jay Carney talks to reporters during regular press briefings at the White House. Carolyn Kaster/AP

White House press secretary Jay Carney leaves Cabinet announcements to the man who actually makes the nominations: President Obama. Reporters know this, but it doesn’t stop them from asking about rumored candidates anyway.

Since Obama won reelection, White House reporters have pressed Carney for information about Obama's deliberations on candidates for the coveted jobs.  But the press secretary refuses to even give any hints. In fact, Carney, a former Time magazine correspondent, has elevated his efforts to dodge these questions to an art form.

“I have no personnel announcements to make,” Carney said Monday, after being asked when Labor and Commerce secretaries would be announced. That led to chuckles in the press-briefing room among reporters who were familiar with that response. 

Carney has often repeated the phrase, or a version of it, many times since Obama began making decisions about how to shape his second-term Cabinet after the November election. Here are a few highlights from his exchanges with reporters on the subject:

March 7

Reporter: "Jay, can you also comment on the reports that David O’Connor is the president’s top pick to be the director of the Secret Service?"

Carney: "Kristen, as you know, I just--I don’t comment on speculation about personnel announcements. I prefer to let the president make decisions about personnel and announce them himself."

Feb. 1

Carney: "Well, I think it's a good question, but I do not have a timetable to provide to you for further personnel announcements."

Jan. 31

Reporter: "The acting OMB director, Jeff Zients, had to actually give up the acting designation last year because of the time involved. Is the president going to appoint someone soon, nominate someone soon for OMB director?"

Carney: "I have no personnel announcements to make today. I wish I did." (Laughter)

Jan. 17

Reporter: "It’s been reported that the president’s White House lobbyist, Rob Nabors, is going to be elevated to be deputy chief of staff. So my question is, do lawmakers and staffers, are they going to learn soon who the contact person is for the legislative affairs if strategy is so important?"

Carney: "Let me take the end of your question first by saying that I have no personnel announcements to make." (Laughter)

Reporter: "It’s been widely reported that Denis McDonough will likely be announced as the president’s next chief of staff. Is that true--no, I’m just kidding. Not is that true. But I’m wondering, how sensitive is the president to what appearances might look like if his next personnel announcement is a white man, instead of a pick who might add more diversity to his staff or his Cabinet?"

Carney: "I think it’s impossible to answer that question since I have no information for you today that would allow you to deduce anything about what the next personnel announcement will be because I have none today, and I wouldn’t expect one today."

Jan. 15

Reporter: "Is Denis McDonough going to be the next White House chief of staff?"

Carney: "That’s an easy one. I have no personnel announcements to make (laughter) from the podium today. Thank-you all very much."

Reporter: "We’re just a few days away from the second term starting, and there are four Cabinet officials that have yet to announce their plans, including the secretaries of Energy and Interior and Transportation. When can we expect to know that? I mean, it seems we’re getting right up to the end here."

Carney: "I have no personnel announcements to make. I think you can expect, broadly speaking, the president to make announcements when he’s ready to make them with appropriate haste, but also with the appropriate amount of consideration. In other words: no answer." (Laughter)

Jan. 9

Carney: "Welcome. Good afternoon. Thanks for being here. Sorry we had to postpone the briefing. Very busy day. I have a very important personnel announcement to make. Actually, I’m just kidding. I’ll go right to the AP." (Laughter)

Reporter: "Jay, on that topic (laughter) it’s been widely reported that Jack Lew is the president’s choice to be the next Treasury secretary. I’m wondering if you could comment on those reports. And also, if that’s the case, what does Jack’s selection as Treasury secretary say about his economic priorities for the second term?"

Carney: "Let me say two things. First, I don’t make Cabinet-level personnel announcements; the president does. And I will not get ahead of the president. When he is ready to make an announcement about his next Treasury secretary, he will make that announcement."

Reporter: "So when you say that totality that there is going to be some other Cabinet appointments, it sounds like in the next, say, couple of months."

Carney: "Well, I have no personnel announcements."

Dec. 20

Reporter: "Senator Hagel has come under some fire recently with his positions on issues like Iran, Iraq, and other issues. Is the president still impressed with Senator Hagel’s record? Is he still the kind of person the president would want in a senior Cabinet position?"

Carney: "I have no announcements to make about personnel matters. I can simply say that Senator Hagel has been a remarkable servant to this country, a recipient of two Purple Hearts. He fought for this country and has served this country admirably in a number of capacities. Beyond that, I think I’ll let the president make any announcements about personnel when the time is right."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.