I know Bush did the same thing with some conservative writers, too. The timing is a little mysterious, though.
I was skeptical; I looked it up, and it appears you are right! At least once.
In Bush's case, it was not crisis-driven but (according to what I read) an attempt to explain his policy decisions in general to a punditry that had gotten somewhat hostile to his administration.
So you're right again... the timing is suspect! This looks a more like desperate damage control on Obamao’s part.