CBS4’s Jim Benemann interviewed President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday. CBS4 executive producer Jeff Gurney accompanied Benemann on the trip and shared the following recap of their experience.

8:33 am

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We arrive at the White House. Security is visible everywhere. Secret Service sweep through our equipment while we walk through metal detectors and onto the White House lawn.

Jeff Gurney (credit: CBS)

Jeff Gurney (credit: CBS)

There’s security on the roof, on the lawn and along the fence. Pennsylvania Ave. has been closed for a while. But now there is a new temporary fence on the sidewalk. We meet with members of the White House communications office on the other side of the fence. When we walk through the White House we’ll always have an escort.

8:45 am

On the way to the Map Room, which will be our workspace, we see the Obama family’s dogs, Sunny and Bo, following the ground crews. The Map room is where FDR followed the events of WWII.

9:15 am

We had a short time to talk with Press Secretary Josh Earnest. His office is very modest. The desk is worn. There are digital clocks on the walk showing the time in various cities around the world.

Jim Benemann attends a meeting led by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (credit: CBS)

Jim Benemann attends a meeting led by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (credit: CBS)

The President’s Daily Briefing sits on his desk with the Presidential Seal along with a book, “How’s Your Faith?” by David Gregory. The conversation about health care is off the record. But nothing the general public hasn’t heard or read before.

10:00 am

Here comes the full court press on the President’s ACA. We meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Jerry Abramson. They both discuss Obamacare: what’s working, what’s not. (This is the topic the President wants us to talk to him about.)

We did this in the Roosevelt room. On the wall is FDR’s Nobel Prize. Surprisingly it’s about the size of a cellphone. He’s the first U.S. President to win it.

Afterwards we do interviews with both Secretary Burwell and Mr. Abramson.


By noon we are back in the Map Room, looking at interviews and going over questions for the President.

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During this time, some of the members of television stations from 7 different U.S. cities leave to go to the cafeteria.

I went back to the media briefing room to watch part of Josh Earnest’s briefing to the media. He answers a lot of questions. The funniest: if the U.S. needed a “mosquito czar” (because of the recent mosquito-borne, Dika virus).

The White House staff shows us the Diplomatic Reception Room. It’s a 3 camera shoot with lots of gear all over tarps.

There’s an outside door to the lawn where the President boards Marine One.

The White House is treated like a museum. And you really get the sense that the White House staff treats it as such. After all this is the President’s residence! (whether it’s a Republican or Democrat .. this is house of the person who holds the highest elected office in the world.)

We’re not allowed to touch the furniture. Furniture is brought in for us to do our work. And what look like painting tarps are on parts of the carpet for the television equipment.

Back in the Map Room, the groundskeepers surprise the visiting media by bringing in the Obamas’ dogs. They’re a hit with everyone and really crack the nervousness by many who are preparing to interview the President.

President Barack Obama being interviewed by CBS4's Jim Benemann (credit: CBS)

President Barack Obama being interviewed by CBS4’s Jim Benemann (credit: CBS)

2:30 pm

The interviews with the President begin. The anchors and producers are led into the Diplomatic Reception Room one at a time. Each station has less than 5 minutes. The door is closed between interviews. Walking in the President is already in the room, lit and wearing a mic. (On a previous trip, I was struck how the President was surrounded by people like a cocoon and dropped off in the interview area like a father would put his child in car seat.) CBS4’s Jim Benemann walks up shakes his hand, puts on his mic and the interview begins.

Jim starts with a question about the Broncos in the Super Bowl, just to break the ice.