NYT's Annie Karni slammed for calling Obama's 'maskless' birthday crowd 'sophisticated'

Karni, a White House correspondent for the paper, was called out by American journalist Glenn Greenwald on Twitter

                            NYT's Annie Karni slammed for calling Obama's 'maskless' birthday crowd 'sophisticated'
Barack Obama at his party and the clip of Annie Karni speaking to CNN. (Instagram/@erykahbadu and Twitter/@CalebHowe)

As former President Barack Obama’s birthday party on Saturday, August 7, continues to get flak on social media, a New York Times journalist has found herself at the receiving end of this ire.

Reporter Annie Karni drew flak after she said on CNN that the guests at the party looked like "a sophisticated, vaccinated crowd", brushing off safety concerns aired by many in the wake of surging Covid-19 Delta variant cases. 

The birthday bash received condemnation right from the start, especially after it was revealed that it would have as many as 500 guests. However, Obama reportedly downsized the guest list to “just family and close friends” after the uproar. A host of celebrities were seen arriving on Martha’s Vineyard on Friday, August 6 - John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Dwayne Wade, Gabrielle Union, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Stephen Colbert, Oprah Winfrey, and John Kerry were all seen on the Massachusetts island.


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The New York Times headquarters is seen February 14, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Who is Annie Karni?

As per her New York Times bio, Karni is a White House correspondent for the paper. She previously covered the White House and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign for Politico. Her bio says that she spent a decade covering City Hall and local politics for the New York Post, the New York Daily News, and the New York Sun before covering national politics.

Karni was called out by American journalist, author, and lawyer Glenn Greenwald on Twitter. The former co-founding editor of The Intercept wrote, “A NYT reporter on CNN justifying Obama's huge maskless birthday bash because he only invited ‘a sophisticated, vaccinated crowd’ is about as emblematic of liberal discourse as it gets. What happened to all the concerns about vaccinated people passing Delta to the unvaccinated?”

Greenwald added in another tweet, “Seems like the NYT's stamp of approval for Obama's opulent, massive, indoor maskless party for the ‘sophisticated people’ is a bit at odds with Dr Fauci's demand this morning that motorcyclists stop acting like spoiled children by gathering outside,” sharing a clip of Fauci talking about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.



“This @nytimes phony reporter consistently covers for Democrats. She’s been caught multiple times doing advocacy,” tweeted Richard Grenell, a former acting director of the United States National Intelligence. One Twitter account wrote, “Well, folks we can all stop worrying about Obamas birthday bash being a #SuperSpreader event because according to White House Correspondent, Annie Karni, the attendees were a "sophisticated vaccinated" crowd. Have you ever heard of anything so stupid?”



In the clip that’s being shared by critics of Obama and Karni, the White House correspondent was seen speaking on CNN. Reportedly quoting people from her own Times story about the party, Karni said that residents on the island of Martha's Vineyard had given her various reasons as to why covid concerns were low.

“This has really been overblown,” she said on CNN. “They're following all the safety precautions. People are going to sporting events that are bigger than this. This is going to be safe. This is a sophisticated, vaccinated crowd and this is just about optics. It's not about safety.”

Following the backlash, Karni, quoting Greenwald’s tweet, wrote, “Watch the full clip. The Q was, what do people on the island think of the party? The A was me summarizing views of ppl I spoke with: some are upset, + others think the concerns about it are overblown. ‘Sophisticated crowd’ was from a quote in the story.”


In her Times story, Karni spoke with Richard Taylor, a summer resident who writes a column on the historically Black Oak Bluffs section of Martha’s Vineyard for the Vineyard Gazette. He said, “There are a lot of people here for the event. I’m sure they’ll be hosting smaller groups… He has 20-plus acres of land, and everyone was going to be outside. You’re dealing with a sophisticated crowd. I think the concerns were a bit overblown.”

At the same time, as per Mediaite, when Karni appeared on CNN, she also spoke about those who had been disinvited and how they might be harboring negative feelings. “A lot of the celebrities kept their invites and a lot of the former administration officials who really credit themselves with helping the former president having built this legacy that allows him to fit in so comfortably with the A-list stars were cut,” she said. “There is some hard feelings and some disappointment that this is the way it’s turning out.”

The delta variant, which was first detected in India last October, has been found in more than 130 countries globally, according to the World Health Organization. It is reportedly the most transmissible variant of the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which updated their Delta variant fact sheet on Friday, August 6, noted that the Covid-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are not 100 percent effective against the Delta variant and “some fully vaccinated people will become infected (called a breakthrough infection) and experience illness.” 

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