The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, January 29, 2003  

They Let Anyone Into the White House These Days

It turns out the “Lester” to whom I referred and about whom I asked on January 24, is one Lester Kinsolving, and as it happens, he’s quite widely known for his, shall we say, eccentric views and bizarre personality profile.

Kinsolving is affiliated with wing-nut Joseph Farah’s “WorldNetDaily,” an ersatz news outfit that lately has taken on among its many unworthy causes the promotion of just-plain-old-nut Joan Peters and her thoroughly discredited book, From Time Immemorial. (See, “The Rehabilitation of Joan Peters,” The Rittenhouse Review, June 19, 2002.)

How is it, I wonder, that this little cretin -- Kinsolving, I mean, at least in this instance -- has not appeared on my radar before now?

Anyway, my thanks and appreciation for enlightenment go out to: Roger Ailes (see below), Atrios (see below), Les Dabney, Lisa English (see below), Tim Francis-Wright, Jeff Scott Heebner, J., A.K., J.K., Julia, Terry Krepel (see below), Will McAveney, Matt Meltzer, Tom Powers, Matthew Thomas, Thomas Tunney, the Watchful Babbler (see below), and possibly one or two others I may have overlooked.

A few comments from readers:

A Reader (who concedes borrowing from various sites to draft his comments):

It’s Lester Kinsolving, a Baltimore radio personality known for his wacky questions. Normally, Les, as he’s known, stands on the sidelines and waits until the end of the briefing to ask his peculiar, and often entertaining, questions. But with the switcheroo, he’s started to claim seats up front. Yesterday he was sitting in the seat designated for the New York Times. When the rightful occupant came in a few minutes late and tried to reclaim his seat, Les told him: “It’s not your seat if you’re late.”

Chief press wrangler Reed Dickens had to go over and tell Les to move, which he did -- directly in front of the podium to another empty seat in Row 2. Because the White House has committed to calling on reporters in order, Les got his questions on Gary Hart and the U.S. Postal Service in even before USA Today and Bloomberg. . . .

I looked longingly at my old seat in the third row only to find that it was filled not by the New York Daily News reporter but rather by a reporter for something called Audio Visual News. The Daily News reporter didn’t cause a stink. “I’m half French-Canadian so I’m going to sit in the AFP seat,” he said. Agence France-Presse, that is. There must be something about that seat: He even asked a question about France’s position on the coalition against Saddam Hussein.

Attendance was sparse. That’s no indictment of Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who is briefing us this week while Fleischer is on his honeymoon; there are always empty seats. The last of the eight rows is usually filled with guests and cameramen reading the newspaper. Newspaper reading, however, is not limited to the rows out of the camera’s easy view. I spied one reporter doing a crossword puzzle and another reading the funnies in the third and fourth rows yesterday.

The untold secret of the White House briefings is this: Reporters never ask a question that they really want to know the answer to. Perennial Power Rower herself, Helen Thomas, will tell underlings that. (The octogenarian Thomas, who works for Hearst newspapers these days, is the only reporter who has her name instead of the name of her organization on the little brass plaque affixed to the seat.) The reason is that if you get a real answer rather than spin, you’ll have to share it with the whole press corps, but mostly it’s because you’ll never get a real answer.

Ever since the briefings became televised under former President Bill Clinton, they have morphed into made-for-TV events. “We do not comment on intelligence matters from this podium,” McClellan said today, as if reading from a rulebook. But sometimes, away from the klieg lights, they will. In the briefings, the questions and answers are often less substance than semantics. Reporters try to trick the press secretary into committing news, and he tries to make reporters look badgering and biased. Fleischer recently told the New York Times that reporters do a lot of “peacocking” at the briefings to impress their bosses. Conan O’Brien, no doubt, will be tuning in for more material.

Roger Ailes:

I’m sure I’m not the first, but Lester is Les Kingsolving. According to his bio at WorldNetDaily, “Les Kinsolving hosts a daily talk show for WCBM in Baltimore. His radio commentaries are syndicated nationally. He is White House correspondent for Talk Radio Network and WorldNetDaily. He has been selected by Talkers Magazine as one of the top 100 radio hosts for the last six years. Before going into broadcasting, Kinsolving was a newspaper reporter and columnist -- twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his commentary.”

I didn’t realize you could nominate yourself.


Lester is Lester Kinsolving, resident insane wing-nut of the White House press corps.

Lisa English:

Who is Lester? It’s none other than Les Kinsolving, that noodly Baltimore radio personality on WCBM. Was that wild, or what? Crazy questions are his specialty.

Terry Krepel:

In case nobody’s won the contest, “Lester” is Les Kinsolving, a Baltimore radio talk-show host who, for some reason, has a White House press pass and is essentially the conservatives’ White House press corps’ answer to Helen Thomas. He has a deal with the conservative “news” site WorldNetDaily in which he asks Ari Fleischer questions submitted by WND readers. His “bug-chasing” question is already immortalized there.

The Watchful Babbler:

I’m not sure if you knew this already, but “Lester” would be Lester (“Les”) Kinsolving, who does a radio show in Baltimore and is infamous amongst the White House press corps for both his constant grandstanding and often-bizarre lines of questioning -- Friday’s conference being a case in point -- while respected (a wary respect, to be sure) for his tenacity. In some ways, he’s a right-wing Sarah McClendon, a comparison that I suspect she would have found apt.

Thank you all.

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