Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Anger Reportedly Rises Among White House Reporters

Wed 03 Feb 2021 | 11:02 AM
Yassmine Elsayed

Anger has been triggered among the correspondents of the White House as Joe Biden’s press secretary asked reporters to submit their questions in advance of briefings.

Daily Beast quoted three sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as written communications that the new president’s communications staff have already on occasion probed reporters to see what questions they plan on asking new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when called upon during briefings.

The requests prompted concerns among the White House press corps. One reporter raised the issue during an informal White House Correspondents Association Zoom call last Friday. Back then, leaders at the meeting advised print reporters to push back against requests by the White House press team to learn of questions in advance, or simply to not respond to the Biden team’s inquiries.

“While it’s a relief to see briefings return, particularly with a commitment to factual information, the press can't really do its job in the briefing room if the White House is picking and choosing the questions they want,” one White House correspondent said. “That's not really a free press at all.”

“It pissed off enough reporters for people to flag it for the [WHCA] for them to deal with it,” another knowledgeable source said.

Earlier during her first presser, Psaki promised to restore regular briefings, including those with top administration health officials, adding that she had a “deep respect for the role of a free and independent press,” and that they shared “a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.”

According to Daily Beast, under previous administrations, many White House reporters would meet informally in the morning for gaggles with the press secretaries. During these interactions, White House communications staff could get a sense of the topics reporters were interested in that day, and would come prepared for questions during televised briefings later in the afternoon.

Eric Schultz, a former deputy press secretary in the Obama White House, defended the new measure saying: “This is textbook communications work. The briefing becomes meaningless if the press secretary has to repeatedly punt questions, instead of coming equipped to discuss what journalists are reporting on."

“In a non-covid environment, this would happen in casual conversations throughout the day in lower and upper press. One of the few upsides to reporters hovering over your desk all day, is that you get a very quick sense of what they’re working on.”