Thursday, June 11, 2015

Statement Analysis: Josh Earnest on White House Cigarettes



This is a short sample, but rich for analysis:

Did the White House spokesman say that Obama did not have cigarettes in his hand?

I do not care if he smokes or not, but found White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest's reply to be useful for analysis.   Here is the article, and the exchange.

Question for reader:  Did he deny that Obama had cigarettes in his hand?

Conclusion:  What do you conclude from your analysis?

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest denied speculation that President Obama was smoking during a visit with the Italian Prime Minister outside the G-7 summit in Germany.

An Instagram photo posted by one of the Italian Prime Ministers staff showed Obama holding a package of what looked like cigarettes, making the image go viral.
Does he have a pack of cigarettes in his hand?” asked White House reporter April Ryan, referring to the photo.
This is a "yes or no" question.  
“He does not,” Earnest replied, adding that he didn’t know what Obama was holding because he wasn’t there.
Note the question "does he" is answered by "he does not", which is parroting language.  He avoided the "yes or no" element, instead, used the Interviewer's language.  We do not have the full quote here, but the article states that he gave the reason for "not knowing" what was in the president's hand:  he was not there.  This shows an anticipation of being asked, "How do you know that they are not cigarettes?" yet, avoids information on how he would know, either way. He excuses or explains his lack of knowledge.  He does not know what was in his hand, begging the question, how would you know, therefore, what is not in his hand?  Note also, what came next, as crucial for your analysis:  
You may not be surprised to hear that I have not raised this issue with the president today,” Earnest said.
What is the purpose of this statement?  
When Ryan insisted that the photo was “everywhere,” Earnest replied “I’m not sure that’s the way I would describe it.”
As she continued to press Earnest about the photo, he interrupted her.
What do you make of the following statement:  
“I told you they’re not cigarettes, let’s move on,” he concluded shortly.

What do you make of this statement?

What is your conclusion?

Is he telling the truth?

Or, is he lying?

If he is lying, does it matter if someone lies over a small issue like smoking?   Is smoking of any importance to those who may be in contact to the White House?  

32 comments:

jen-d said...

"“Does he have a pack of cigarettes in his hand?” asked White House reporter April Ryan, referring to the photo.
This is a "yes or no" question.
“He does not,” Earnest replied, adding that he didn’t know what Obama was holding because he wasn’t there."

He uses three words ("he does not") when he can easily respond to the question using only one ("no" or "yes") Answer is also made in the negative(?) making "not" sensitive.

"“You may not be surprised to hear that I have not raised this issue with the president today,” Earnest said.
What is the purpose of this statement?"

It seems he wants to mean, `I didnt ask the prez so stop asking because I dont know anything' but he also really means `i didnt ask teh president so shut up/u have no right to ask me too'. Also, it seems "you may not be surprised to hear" is a very long form of "obviously" and "of course".

"What do you make of the following statement:
“I told you they’re not cigarettes, let’s move on,” he concluded shortly."

"Told" is a demand. He wants to say, stop with the cigarette questions already! - making the topic sensitive to him.

Im not sure what is it about cigarettes that seems illegal in his "dictionary" or is it about Obama's image? Personally, I felt Obama is an actor hired by the govt to pretend to be a president. He's teh US president that I saw most in US entertainment talk shows.

He is lying.

jen-d said...

OT

I noticed that when I use the word "honestly" it is to emphasize a point or whatever it is that follows after "honestly". I also noticed this in others. or Does it always mean that anything that come before "honestly" is a lie?

What does "No comment" mean in SA? Is it equivalent to "I dont know what to say"? or "Im not saying anything because I dont know the facts?" or is it a way to say "yes" without actually saying "yes"?

Peter Hyatt said...

Jen-d,

it is a signal that, at this point, the person really wants to be believed. It may be true, but what about when the person does not say "honestly" in a sentence? Are those sentences not trustworthy?

Therefore, it is a signal that the person is not one who normally speaks the truth OR...

This "or" is vital:

The person may be, in natural course of life, "deceptive" professionally:

For example, a therapist may use this word if he or she normally is "deceptive" in that, she does not break the trust of confidentiality!

Doctors are the same way. They feel this "burden" of information that they cannot share, so they are, sometimes all day long, dealing with confidential information. Whey they feel a "release" to talk, they may say, "honestly", or "frankly" since they practice withholding information all day long, by profession!

This is why I ask people to be careful about it!

Alone, "honestly" does not tell us truth or deception.

Peter

Peter Hyatt said...

Jen-D,

as to your analysis: good work.

Peter

GeekRad said...

Jen D said...

Personally, I felt Obama is an actor hired by the govt to pretend to be a president. He's teh US president that I saw most in US entertainment talk shows.

I love it Jen. He sure projects that image.

Anonymous said...

they are cigarettes. probably the most harmless of all the plethora of white house lies

Wendy said...

“You may not be surprised to hear that I have not raised this issue with the president today,” Earnest said
Are we normally surprised? Should we be surprised? He didn't bring up this issue-today, he brought up other issues. He may have talked to the president about this yesterday, not today.

When Ryan insisted that the photo was “everywhere,” Earnest replied “I’m not sure that’s the way I would describe it.”
He doesn't tell us how he would describe it. He's trying to minimize it.

“I told you they’re not cigarettes, let’s move on,”
He used 'told' not 'said.' Told is authoritative and firm, he's making a one-way statement.

His job is defending the President when he screws up. He lied about something so trivial and obvious, how can he expect anyone to believe anything he says. He could have saved face by saying "I don't know," or "I didn't talk to the President about the picture." By evading and denying the question, he is being deceptive.

Anonymous said...

"You may not be surprised to hear that I have not raised this issue with the president today," Earnest said.

Earnest was being sarcastic, nothing more, nothing less.

Earnest never said "I told you they're not cigarettes, let's move on," Earnest never said they're not cigarettes and lied when he said he did.

How silly. Obama is NOT an actor hired by the govm't to pretend to be a president. Obama was legally elected by the American voters who voted him in office of the Presidency of The United States by more than 50% of the popular vote, and sworn into office via his hand placed upon a Bible at his inauguration. Get real.

Lemon said...

“You may not be surprised to hear that I have not raised this issue with the president today,” Earnest said.

Anything in the negative is sensitive. Here are two negatives in one short sentence. Added to that is the qualifier "today". Is this statement to shame the reporters into not following this line of questioning? I also wondered how JE knew the answer if he wasn't there and he had not "raised the issue" with the president. Maybe he's psychic :)

John mcgowan said...

""I told you they're not cigarettes, let's move on,"

A truthful person will speak from memory. This suggest it is not coming from experiential memory but he is self-referencing. How does he know they are not cigarettes if he was not there?

rob said...

Who gives a rats @zz if they are cigs? Obama is an adult. Smoking is not illegal. The fact that Earnest would even get involved shows he is nothing but a paid liar.

Jen-d, your statement about him being an actor paid to portray a president makes more sense that anything I have ever seen Obama do. Love it!

John mcgowan said...

Hi Rob,

I concur, it's all good practice though :)

Jen-d..That's a belter, it made me smile too :)

jen-d said...

"For example, a therapist may use this word if he or she normally is "deceptive" in that, she does not break the trust of confidentiality!

Doctors are the same way. They feel this "burden" of information that they cannot share, so they are, sometimes all day long, dealing with confidential information. Whey they feel a "release" to talk, they may say, "honestly", or "frankly" since they practice withholding information all day long, by profession!"

Funny you'd use doctors as examples! I asked that question hours after I saw a tv docu/program (it was in Korean & translated into English) where a plastic surgeon doctor was detailing the cost of the surgery they gave a patient as well as the number of doctors it took to operate on the patient (she had extremely sagging skin due to her being obese once) - and in it the doctor said (or the translation indicated) "honestly" two times. The doctor said it was the most expensive procedure theyve done & it involved the most doctors.

Dave McG said...


Earnest first he said he "does not (have cigarettes in his hand)"
Then he said, he didn’t know what Obama was holding because he wasn’t there.
Finally, he said, “I told you they’re not cigarettes.."

One statement that contradicts another makes the other statement false. You don't have to prove which of the two is false, just that that are contradictory and/or opposite.

So, Earnest is deceptive.

jen-d said...

"Jen-D,

as to your analysis: good work. "

Thanks Peter!

C5H11ONO said...

I say we all ship him a pack of Marlboro's to the White House!

jen-d said...

GeekRad rob John mcgowan - lol Thanks!

Obama is very charismatic. I think he danced on tv too(?). Triple threat.

Lis said...

Rob, he must think that enough people "give a rats @zz" to make it worth being deceptive in answering the question.

It is kind of interesting, picturing a president smoking... I wonder if because it gives the picture of someone who needs a crutch, smoking is a crutch used to deal with stress, after all. It seems incongruous.

I don't know whether Earnest knows that the item is cigarettes or whether he is afraid it is and feels a duty to protect the president from speculation. Of course, he failed. As soon as someone says "let's move on" well, you know they are running from the subject

sidewalk super said...


bho is a pathological liar,
stands to reason, his press secretary is of a similar feather.
Not good for us since this is the top of our government.

aN0NyMOUSE said...

Hmmm. I was taught that the Electoral College is used for the Office of the President of the United States ----- Not Popular Vote.
Did this 'Acting' President Really get More than 50% of the Popular Vote??

Anonymous said...

Well. I don't know whether BHO is a pathological liar or not (and I doubt that you do either) and it's not worth all my efforts to try to figure it out one way or the other since we are already stuck with them; and especially in light of the fact that GW was ALSO a pathological liar of vast proportions, PLUS a drunkard, and got away with it quite successfully; so in conclusion I'll just say that I don't give a damn whether BHO smokes or not. Ditto for Earnest and HIS lies as well.

Nothing is permanent in this life and that includes them. They will soon be history anyhow. And this too shall pass. It remains to be seen who and what comes next. Will they be even worse than we've already had, and presently have, or better? It could turn out that we will long for the old days of BHO and even GW. I say let's be happy with the state we are in and keep moving right along. It could get worse.

Anonymous said...

You could be right aNONyMOUSE; I thought about the Electroral vote as opposed to the popular vote after I had already made the post. In any event, he WAS elected by us American Citizens. WE elected him, like it now or not, that's the way it was. He didn't just land up there accidentally, you know... nor did he go sit down in the WH having been bought up by a small faction, (although, if the truth were known, there WAS some big $ quietly changing hands in the mahogany background); nor was he placed there through some insane actor negotiations... You get the point.

BUT, that's what the "men" in control of this country wanted. The big $ behind the wheel that turns. Be damned if they were going to allow a WOMAN to run this countrys' presidency. No way. They had two choices; it was between a man and a woman. They'd rather have a black man in office, ANY black man, than a woman president.

They won't let it happen next time either. Hillary is wasting her time. AGAIN.

Anonymous said...

Mornin' Lis...

As you can see, I use the phrase "let's keep moving" or "moving right along" rather frequently. It does not mean I am running from the subject per 'se; it could mean that I have more important things to do than to waste my time on such trivia, or I don't want to see a matter escalate into an argument, or any number of other reasons I decide to close the door on the issue.

I appreciate your viewpoint, but it's just one of the ways I use to ease myself out of a situation that I prefer not to belabor. That's all. It has worked well for me in business situations which are easy to get bogged down in when there is some slight discrepancy that can easily be resolved, or that need to keep moving; and worked well for me while growing up where I had siblings who just wanted to keep some argumentative c'rap stirred up. It is otherwise of no significance.

overland express said...


Fiorina is proving herself to be an extremely smart candidate.
I do enjoying watching and listening to her handle the baiters and haters in the press.
And, how I want her to make her "two phone calls" NOW !

Anonymous said...


I say let him smoke as many cigs as he wants, as often as he wants .

Anonymous said...

Ditto @ 8:03. Who cares anyhow?

wreyeter72 said...

PR move - as a PR professional, I know this one well. He doesn't know if they are cigarettes, and he is mot going to take up the president's time with such a mundane, unimportant question to find out if they are, hence the sarcasm. I was dealing with a negative media situation yesterday and was asked a question that I had no answer to. I found myself debating if it was wise to answer "I don't know," and I debated several other vague answers before deciding I might as well say "I don't know" and move on. It was an equally unimportant question in any event as the reporter asking if Obama had cigarettes in his hand. I think it is hard for a PR person dealing with a negative situation to admit he just doesn't know. I know I struggle with it.

overland express said...


I hope he smokes the unfiltered cigs,
so much more flavor.

Anonymous said...

It is my opinion that this IS a pack of cigarettes in Obama's hand and that he is stepping outside the door to have a smoke; which, IMO, is pretty damned courteous of him to give this consideration to others who do not smoke. IMO, the media person snapping the photo could see that this was a package of ciggies and wanted to make a big deal out of it.

Big whoopee. Isn't it a fairly well known fact that Obama smokes, so why make a big issue of it? It's not illegal and it's not a crime, so why bully? I think everyone around Obama knows he smokes; further, I think he should stop even trying to hide it.

If I were the pres I'd light up inside my private office anytime I felt like it and if anyone didn't like it they could 1) keep the frig OUT of my office; and 2) kiss my lily white cellulite butt, so there, put that in your pipe and smoke it miz media....

In fact, guess what? I DO smoke inside my private office and I DON'T step outside to do it. IFF someone needs to enter my office who has an allergy to smoke I spray the office with the soft spray I use and do not smoke in their presence; however, there is generally no need of this since I have a conference room right next to my office where no smoking is allowed. It IS after all, MY office, just as my car is MY car. Stay OUT if you don't like it. Get the picture?

Anonymous said...

Anon,

With all due respect, isn't the White House a Federal Building, thereby making smoking there a crime? Also. The White House and Oval Office doesn't belong to The president, it belongs to the people.


Red Meat said...

Who?

Anonymous said...

Anon @6:56 on 06/16; while this is true that the WH and all other Federal Buildings are government owned property and smoking is illegal in those buildings; are you going to say that the Pres of the U. S. couldn't carve out just one little private office where he could smoke without prying eyes or disturbance? Of course he could.

You are aware aren't you, that some doctors have a separate private lounge in some of our hospitals where they go to smoke and they don't own those hospitals either? Well, yes they do. I've personally seen some smoking in a separate lounge, not their general doctors lounge that is provided for all physicians on staff to share; also have seen a few nurses smoking in this private locked lounge inside a hospital. Are you not aware that judges also have their little private rooms in our court houses too, separate from the judges chambers?

It's not hard to carve out some privacy when one really wants too, comprende'? Presidents find private places for extra curricular activities, just like doctors and interns have access to closed off units with empty beds in hospitals where they can privately catch some shut-eye, or whatever. If only the walls could talk, I think you'd be shocked.