If you’re a reporter with a tough question for the White House press secretary, Joe Biden’s staff wouldn’t mind knowing about it in advance.
According to three sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as written communications reviewed by The Daily Beast, 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, whose members, like many reporters, are sensitive to the perception that they are coordinating with political communications staffers.
One reporter raised the issue during an informal White House Correspondents Association Zoom call last Friday. According to multiple sources, 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.
The WHCA Zoom call was off the record, and Daily Beast staffers participated in the talk. Those staffers had no input into this story whatsoever. The reporter who wrote this story was not bound by the terms of the call’s agreement. All of the information in this article was independently gathered, and without his colleagues’ knowledge.
Since Biden took office two weeks ago, the White House press team has visibly attempted to draw contrasts with the Trump press team, which had a notoriously antagonistic relationship with reporters and eventually scrapped the traditional daily briefing altogether.
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.”
Biden’s press team did not deny that staffers had solicited questions from reporters. But the White House contended that it has tried to foster a better relationship with the press corps than the previous administration, and has tried to reach out to reporters directly in order to avoid appearing to dodge questions during briefings.
“Our goal is … (Read more)