WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Critics charge that the soldiers President Bush spoke to in his video-conference Thursday were carefully coached in advance.
The soldiers were carefully coached, the Los Angeles Times said. Before the session began, a Pentagon communications official, Allison Barber, was heard asking one of them, "Who are we going to give that [question] to?" the paper said.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said he did not think the soldiers had been told what they could or could not say. "The troops can ask the president whatever they want," he said. "They've always been free to do that."
Bush did not invite the soldiers to ask any questions, however, and none chose to do so, the LA Times said.
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita later issued a statement saying: "We certainly regret any perception that they were told what to say. It is not the case."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., complained the video-conference it was "highly scripted."
"Officers are upset that military people would be coached as to how to talk to the president," a senior military official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the LA Times. "It's against everything that people in uniform stand for."