Biden and Karine Jean-Pierre ask no questions in the aftermath of the journalists’ demonstration
President Biden and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre took no questions from reporters on Friday after 71 reporters signed an unprecedented letter calling for an end to the mysterious shortlisting of members of the media allowed to participate in Biden events.
The president held just one public event and reporters were chased away while he was in the middle of his sentence, making questions impossible. Jean-Pierre did not hold a briefing and left the west wing at the beginning of the afternoon for a personal obligation.
Thursday’s letter, addressed to Jean-Pierre, called on the White House to reopen the East Room and other large indoor event spaces to all reporters, which in previous administrations were « open press. »
For more than a year, the White House has asked reporters to RSVP for events where Biden often answers questions. Those admitted are selected based on secret criteria that officials have refused to share even with leaders of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
The restrictive and non-transparent practice lasted more than a year after COVID-19 capacity limits ended in the White House briefing room in early June 2021 – leading many journalists to fear a new detached precedent of the appeasement pandemic.
The letter was discussed Friday in White House press rooms and three additional reporters asked to add their names after 68 signatures before the note was sent to Jean-Pierre. Other reporters expressed regret for not checking their emails while covering Biden’s trip this week to Germany and Spain, where the president frustrated reporters by calling just five reporters at a conference call. 27-minute quick press release Thursday.
Nearly two-thirds of the seats in the White House briefing room were represented in the protest letter, and reporters in some of the other seats privately expressed support for the cause.
Jean-Pierre did not respond to requests for comment. But in a telltale sign that the message was received, the press office on Friday allowed two reporters to Biden’s event, including one from The Post, who had been barred from participating in an indoor event through the process of selection since November.
Reporters, however, were unable to interview Biden at the event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, which houses a mock television in an auditorium. As Biden continued a discussion with Democratic governors over abortion policy, the press was asked to leave.
The White House then canceled Biden’s planned Friday afternoon departure to the South Lawn for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland – citing ‘bad weather’ despite cloudless skies, possibly due to potential storms. Biden instead took a motorcade for the roughly hour-long journey to Camp David, which meant reporters had no opportunity to ask questions.
The fear among the press corps is that restrictions on access to large indoor spaces will become permanent – disadvantaging various groups of journalists in the future depending on changing official whims.
« The current method of allowing a limited number of journalists to participate in these events is not only restrictive and contrary to the concept of a free press, but has been applied without any transparent process on how journalists are selected to cover these events. “, said the demonstration. says the letter.
« The White House’s continued failure to be candid and transparent about the selection process for reporters attending his remarks undermines President Biden’s credibility when he says he is a First Amendment advocate, » he continued.
« The incongruity of these restrictions underscores the belief of many journalists that the administration seeks to limit access to the president by anyone outside the pool, or anyone who might ask a question the administration does not want to ask. «
“Let’s be frank,” the letter continues. “Our job is not to be liked, or to care whether or not you like what we are asking. Journalists’ ability to interview the most powerful man in our government should not be discretionary.
“The administration’s continued efforts to limit access to the president cannot be defended,” he adds. « Any suggestion that space is ‘limited’ is not supported by the fact that every other president before Biden (including Trump) has allowed full access to the same spaces without requiring us to fill out an application form beforehand. ‘admission. »
The letter ends with: “Thank you for your attention to these ahistorical issues. We ask that you ensure that the protocols return to the access standards we are used to.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, CBS’ Ed O’Keefe and Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich and Kevin Corke signed the letter, as did legendary former ABC anchor and White House reporter Sam Donaldson, TheGrio’s April Ryan, James Rosen from Newsmax, Jon Decker from Gray Television and Al Jazeera from Al Jazeera. Kimberly Hallett.
The letter was written by veteran journalist Brian Karem, who currently writes for Salon and has covered the White House since the Reagan administration. The second signature came from CBS News Radio’s Steven Portnoy, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, who privately lobbied against the practice for months. A Post reporter signed the third and helped circulate the document.
Two other Correspondents’ Association board members – Todd GIllman of The Dallas Morning News and Francesca Chambers of USA Today – have signed on, as have former association presidents Tom DeFrank and George Condon, both of National Journal, and the five nominees for this year’s association. election, including Politico’s Eugene Daniels and CBS’ Sara Cook.
High-profile journalists who have reported on the Trump administration — including Jonathan Swan of Axios and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — have also signed on, as have reporters with decades of experience in the West Wing, such as Peter Baker of the Times, Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times and John Gizzi of Newsmax, as well as DeFrank and Condon.
The letter was a rare airing of grievances after many signatories spent the last year trying to privately pressure the press office to end the practice.
« Having covered the White House since June 1968 as a Newsweek intern, I have seen a disturbing erosion of access that was once routine, » DeFrank said.
The Correspondents’ Association still controls certain access by custom, including assembling the rotating daily press pool and setting the seating plan for official White House press conferences, of which Biden has had two. But for most journalists, the opaque selection process dictates access to nearly every presidential event.
In a sign of how little impact COVID-19 has on current White House event planning, Biden told guests who were crammed into the East Room for a Pride Month event last month that they should « just leaning against each other » because they were too crowded to sit down.
White House spokespersons have staunchly refused to disclose the selection criteria for attending presidential events, contributing to a widely held belief that there are no objective criteria and that people are selected subjectively to shape the questions posed to Biden.
Jean-Pierre told a briefing in June that « I don’t really know » how the selection process works, but denied it amounted to a « blacklist » of certain media outlets or journalists.
Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki also declined in October to share the criteria, telling a briefing, « I don’t have any more information on that. »