The top White House spokesman on Friday tried to staunch a torrent of snarky commentary this week poking fun at President Obama's assertion that he wasn't interested in a border “photo op."
Veteran CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller peppered White House press secretary Josh Earnest with questions about whether Obama really intended to eschew photo ops in general.
“His view is that solving problems is most important, and solving problems is what somebody who's exhibiting leadership is focused on,” Earnest said. “And that's what the president was doing when he was in Dallas on Wednesday. It's also what the president has been doing over the last several weeks.”
Earnest cited Obama's efforts to shift federal immigration resources from the interior of the country to the border, the $3.7 billion in supplemental spending he requested from Congress to help handle the border crisis and his request that Congress give Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson greater authority to repatriate illegal immigrants.
But that didn't stop the line of questioning.
“But he's not pained about every photo op that he does, right?” Knoller asked, as the White House press corps erupted in laughter.
“Well I think if he did, it would disappoint a lot of people in this room who are pretty interested in capturing the president,” Earnest replied.
Knoller, who has chronicled the daily activities of every president since Gerald Ford, then offered another zinger. “Well, aren't photo ops the lifeblood of presidential public relations?”
Earnest then admitted that even photo ops have value.
“There's no doubt that a presidential appearance somewhere sends a very important message about the president's priorities — in some cases it sends a very important message about the country's priorities,” he said.
For more than a week now, Obama has been under fire for taking a trip to Texas amid the border crisis that included two fundraisers and no visit to the border, where tens of thousands of children who have crossed into the state in recent weeks are overflowing U.S. immigration facilities.
Instead of visiting the border, Obama held a closed-door roundtable discussion with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, as well as concerned community leaders and volunteers trying to help care for the influx of unaccompanied children.
Late-night talk show hosts and conservative bloggers had a field day poking fun at other obvious Obama photo ops from the rest of Obama's trip this week to Colorado and Texas -- photos of the president playing pool or going to a barbecue joint where he cut in line.