In Reporters’ Briefing Book, Brits See “Snubs”

Are American reporters accompanying President Obama overseas geographically challenged? Is the self-worth of some British reporters too easily challenged? Are we “parochial?” Are they prickly?

From from today’s (UK) Telegraph:

G20 summit: Barack Obama lands on “small island near Europe”

It is a “group of islands close to continental Europe” which is “slightly smaller than Oregon”. Or at least, that’s the White House view of Britain.

A briefing booklet presented to journalists accompanying Barack Obama on his trip to the G20 meeting in London paints a slightly parochial picture of the United Kingdom, its history and its political leaders.

And despite constant talk of the “special relationship” between Britain and America, the guide also describes France as “America’s oldest ally” who was “instrumental in helping Britain’s American colonies establish independence.”

…The pen pictures, circulated to journalists, of various countries President Barack Obama will visit over the next week were written by the US State Department, apparently drawing from the CIA World Factbook, which compares nations by their size relative to American states.

Germany, described as a “reliable US ally” since the September 11th terrorist attacks is “about the size of Montana” while the Czech Republic is “about the size of Virginia”.

But any sense of Gallic pride in the mention of French exploits against the British is likely to be deflated by the mention that although it is the largest country in Europe it is still only “about four-fifths the size of Texas”…

White House officials, however, express bemusement at what they view as a British obsession with the “special relationship” phrase and perceived snubs.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.