President Joe Biden’s communications staff have probed White House reporters to see what questions they plan on asking new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during briefings, The Daily Beast reports.
During a White House Correspondents Association video call last week, WHCA leaders advised reporters 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, according to The Daily Beast. “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 source said.
At Psaki’s debut briefing on Inauguration Day, she promised to restore regular briefings, saying 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.”
So far, at each early press conference, Psaki has fielded questions from every reporter in the room.
Biden’s press team did not deny that they have been probing reporters but explained that talking to reporters is part of an effort to foster a better relationship with the press than the previous administration. The press team reportedly reaches out to reporters directly in order to avoid appearing to dodge questions during briefings.
“Our goal is to make the daily briefing as useful and informative as possible for both reporters and the public,” a White House spokesperson reportedly said. “Part of meeting that objective means regularly engaging with the reporters who will be in the briefing room to understand how the White House can be most helpful in getting them the information they need. That two-way conversation is an important part of keeping the American people updated about how government is serving them.”
Under previous administrations, many White House reporters would gather informally in the morning to talk with the press secretaries. During these gatherings, 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 administration, told The Daily Beast that finding out what reporters are focusing on was standard procedure in most pre-Trump White Houses in order to reduce the number of questions that go unanswered during televised briefings.
The Biden administration is taking a different approach in order to restore normalcy to the briefing process, Schultz said.
Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy
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