Wed May 15, 2013 AT 12:45 PM EDT
Confronting a hailstorm of questions on the Justice Department’s secret subpoena of AP phone records and the IRS targeting conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, Attorney General Eric Holder and White House press secretary Jay Carney struggled to stay on message, clinging for dear life to phrases like “unfettered,” “inappropriate” and “striking a balance,” Daily Beast reports. The administration seemed tied up in knots on its insistence that President Obama still supports the media-shield legislation he touted as a senator and candidate but did not aggressively back once in the White House – insisting on a national-security exception that effectively gutted it, and left it to die in the senate. Nevertheless, Mr. Carney maintained that President Obama is a “strong defender” of the First Amendment and a “firm believer” that the press should not be blocked in its reporting – but that the Justice Department must also be able to investigate criminal activity, Politico is reporting. Meanwhile, reporters across The Associated Press are outraged over the Justice Department’s sweeping seizure of staff phone records — and they say such an intrusion could chill their relationships with confidential sources.