Former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest defended Obama’s record on transparency Tuesday evening on Late Night with Seth Meyers. “The truth is, President Obama was, in fact, the most transparent president in history," Earnest claimed to a skeptical Seth Meyers who challenged him citing the Obama administration's terrible record on Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
“One of the things President Obama said when he came into office was he was going to have the most transparent administration ever. That was his wall,” Meyers told Earnest, pointing out that “there's been multiple studies that said as far as Freedom Of Information Requests, they were fulfilled less under president Obama than they had been under previous administrations.”
“Did he fail to live up to that transparency and more so, did he establish a new norm that now when you have a president that has opposite politics of you, is going to take advantage of?” Meyers asked.
“This was the subject of a lot of debate in the briefing room when I was the press secretary,” Earnest replied, “and the truth is, President Obama was, in fact, the most transparent president in history."
“By what metrics?” Meyers asked, saying, “this is where you're a good press secretary, I guess, because I see like you're not going to tell me any lies, but I feel you're going to tell a different truth than the one I'm asking about.”
“Well, I think we can agree that there are different ways to evaluate what we're saying under transparencies,” Earnest said.
“Well, let's just do the Freedom Of Information request,” Meyers said. “I mean, do you feel like in regards to that he was as transparent as he could have been?”
“What I can tell you, is there was no presidential directive that came down to any agency that said, you should make it really hard to respond to Freedom Of Information Act requests,” Earnest said. “The truth is, these agencies all have day jobs. They all have responsibilities…It's not surprising that the fulfillment of Freedom of Information Act requests is a little bit of a bureaucratic backwater.”
“More than 90 percent of the Freedom Of Information act requests that were filed in the Obama Administration got a response and got some of the information -- at least some of the information -- that was requested,” Earnest added.
Meyers pointed out that, despite the fact that 90 percent of the requests were fulfilled, “there were more highly censored then had been previous information and sometimes the response was -- and again, 90 percent of the time they got a response. Sometimes the response was, ‘We can't find that.’"
“Well, the 10 percent was, ‘We don't have anything for you.’” Earnest claimed. “But, look, there was a good-faith effort that was made to provide this information.”