Biden faces renewed press backlash over access
Category: News & PoliticsVia: texan1211 • 3 weeks ago • 16 comments
By: Naomi Lim (MSN)
President Joe Biden pitched the merits of democracy during his inaugural United Nations address, but hours later, White House aides' treatment of reporters raised questions about whether he is leading by example.
© Provided by Washington Examiner
And Biden's two run-ins with the press this week reflect mounting frustrations with the administration's shielding of the president at pivotal moments during his term.
The White House's news media dust-ups from Biden's meetings with Prime Ministers Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom and Scott Morrison of Australia are "much ado about nothing," according to Aggressive Progressive podcast host and former Democratic strategist Christopher Hahn.
"They have a bunch of small fires burning, and he was doing a few quick meetings with two of the nations involved with one of the fires," Hahn told the Washington Examiner. "His press secretary briefed the press on this, as did both prime ministers."
But that press secretary, Jen Psaki, did not douse tensions with reporters on Wednesday when she downplayed complaints about news media access to Biden and clamoring for the president to answer questions in a stand-alone, extended format rather than one or two at events or while traveling.
"As it relates to providing information to the public, elevating the importance of the freedom of press to our democracy, I don't know that the format, whether it is multiple shorter "Q" and "As" or a longer formal press conference, is at the top of the list of the American public's concerns," Psaki said.
Biden is not required to answer reporter questions, according to political analyst Dan Schnur, a Republican-turned-independent now at the University of California. But he urged the White House to remember the news media is a proxy for voters.
"Biden hasn't completely shut out the press, but he has been less available to them than any president in recent memory," Schnur added. "The White House has the prerogative of deciding on the format, but the president should be much more available to questions from journalists than has been the case until now."
Biden has a complicated relationship with the press. Some critics contend the White House does not grant reporters enough access to the president and that aides are "handling" him. Others believe his tendency to make verbal mistakes is problematic.
John F. Kennedy revolutionized the presidential press relationship as a master of television, according to historian David Pietrusza. And Kennedy's predecessors have followed suit to different extents, he said.
"But whatever the format or frequency, it is unwise to invite guests to a banquet and not feed them — the current Biden policy — for, as we know — reporters are a ravenous lot," Pietrusza quipped.
Biden campaign and administration press aides have always been protective of their principal, helped in part by Biden's security detail. But reporters, seemingly inured to the tactics, were reminded of their heavy-handedness when foreign counterparts in the country for the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting and sideline discussions asked about them.
"I was asked by a very startled Australian reporter whether [White House] wranglers were always so strict about ushering the pool out without questions," France 24 Washington, D.C., correspondent Kethevane Gorjestani emailed her colleagues as a foreign press representative this week.
Reporters had been trying to ask Biden and Morrison for their response to the diplomatic repercussions of their new U.S.-U.K.-Australia national security alliance, which included a nuclear-powered submarine deal. The alliance resulted in France losing a billion-dollar contract with Australia for 12 diesel-electric submarines.
White House correspondents later lodged a complaint with Psaki after Johnson called on two British reporters in the Oval Office prior to his meeting with Biden. But Biden's response to a U.S. journalist's shouted question about a photo of a U.S. Border Patrol agent pursuing a Haitian migrant in Texas on horseback was drowned out by aides pushing the news media scrum out of the room and muffled by the president's mask.
Psaki told reporters she was "unaware" of the incident and could not "offer an immediate solution," according to CBS News Radio's Steven Portnoy late Tuesday. Portnoy, a White House Correspondents' Association representative who was covering the meeting for radio reporters, implored Psaki to organize a Biden press conference instead.
"Psaki suggested the president takes questions several times a week," he said.
Biden had emphasized hours earlier during his speech to the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly the role reporters play in "the democratic world" and to democracy being "the best tool we have to unleash our full human potential."
"As the United States seeks to rally the world to action, we will lead not just with the example of our power but, God willing, with the power of our example," he told delegates.
Grumblings about another press conference have been growing since Biden's first official question-and-answer session in March.
Before his Johnson meeting, Biden last answered reporter questions on Sept. 15 when he was asked about Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley's conversations with Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng about former President Donald Trump.
Tags:News, Biden, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, White House, Jen Psaki, Media
Original Author:Naomi Lim
Original Location:Biden faces renewed press backlash over access