President Joe Biden’s communications department has requested that the journalists who attend White House press briefings submit questions in advance for review, according to the Daily Beast.
The Daily Beast reported that this move was met with “concerns among the White House press corps” as they do not want to appear to be helping the White House.
The issue was reportedly discussed at a White House Correspondent Association (WHCA) Zoom meeting last Friday, according to the Daily Beast. Leaders apparently told the press to either “push back” on these requests or to simply ignore them.
Reporters are allegedly not happy with the decision by the White House, the Daily Beast reported, with some worried that the decision to pre-screen questions before they are asked may “play into the perception of coordination” between the White House and the press.
“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 told the Daily Beast. “That’s not really a free press at all.”
A second source told the Daily Beast that the action “pissed off” reporters so much that they flagged the action for the WHCA in the first place. It is unclear what effect the WHCA’s action, if it were to be taken at all, would have on the daily briefings.
The White House Press Team did not deny that they asked for questions from reporters, but maintained they are focused on trying to “foster a better relationship” with the press rather.
“Our goal is to make the daily briefing as useful and informative as possible for both reporters and the public,” a spokesperson for the White House said.
Former Deputy Press Secretary of the Obama administration Eric Schultz said that it was normal for the White House to “find out” what reporters were focusing on. He claimed this practice was standard in the pre-Trump era.
“This is textbook communications work,” Schultz said. “The briefing becomes meaningless if the press secretary has to repeatedly punt questions, instead of coming equipped to discuss what journalists are reporting on.”
The Biden team had previously promised more transparency with their incoming administration, often criticizing former President Donald Trump for “misinforming” the people and most recently downplaying the COVID pandemic. Psaki told reporters during her first briefing shortly after the inauguration on January 20 that she would promise “truth” and had “deep respect” for the press in the country, as previously reported by Forbes.