Which anchor scored the best seat at lunch with Obama?
January 25th, 2011
09:02 PM ET

Which anchor scored the best seat at lunch with Obama?

WASHINGTON (CNN) - It was the worst kept secret at the White House Tuesday. When you're Wolf Blitzer and Brian Williams, it's hard to hide when you drop by the White House that is already swarming with reporters. President Obama hosted a hush-hush lunch with television anchors to spin them before he delivered his State of the Union speech.

Who rubbed elbows with the president during the intimate lunch in the Family Dining Room? NBC's Brian Williams and Univision's Maria Elena Salinas. Who might have had to strain the most to see Obama from their seat? MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Telemundo's Jose Diaz-Balart.

This long-standing luncheon tradition to brief television anchors precedes President Obama's administration. It's a coveted invitation – White House reporters don't even get invited – and invitees are under strict orders not to tweet, blog or talk about the off-the-record lunch until the president delivers his address.

And with so many egos – 14 network and cable giants, six presidential aides and the president – how was there room for food at the table?

Maybe that's why the group was served a "compressed avocado" salad with onions, greens, yellow pepper and goat cheese. The main course: a breaded fish with risotto and vegetables.

Obama told the table he thought dessert was delicious. It was described to CNN as a "chocolate brownie-like cupcake thingy with warm chocolate over it."

The dessert probably went down more smoothly than the president's spin.

Our seating chart of the lunch is based on reports in the room.  Seated L-R, beginning with the person seated to the president's left:  Maria Elena Salinas of Univision; NPR's Renee Montagne; White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer; MSNBC's Chris Matthews; White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod; CNN's Wolf Blitzer; Jim Lehrer of PBS; White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs; CBS' Katie Couric; ABC's George Stephanopoulos; FOX News' Shepard Smith; White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett; CNN Espanol's Juan Carlos Lopez; FOX News' Brett Baier; White House Chief of Staff William Daley; CNN's John King; Telemundo's Jose Diaz-Balart; White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe; ABC's Diane Sawyer; and NBC's Brian Williams.

CNN's Emily Schultze contributed to this report.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Sharon may

    Where is the information explaining the "long standing tradition" of this reporters luncheon? As a newsman/organization, where is the who and when to back up that statement?

    January 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  2. Sharon may

    Still waiting for the history of reporter/president lunches before the state of the union speech.

    January 29, 2012 at 10:23 pm |