Dozens of journalists call out undue restrictions Biden WH has imposed on media access

There have been several scandals, small and large, during President Joe Biden’s administration thus far that have, by and large, elicited only a minor reaction from the reporters who comprise the White House press corps — that is, except for one in particular that has dozens of journalists exceptionally riled up.

A letter signed by 68 journalists was just sent to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that demanded an explanation and end to the administration’s “historic” practice of restricting media access to President Biden, the Daily Wire reported.

That letter called into question the capacity limitations still being blamed on the pandemic, the apparently arbitrary and unclear selection process for which reporters can fill those limited spots, and even the validity of Biden’s own professed stance as a staunch defender of the First Amendment-protected freedom of the press.

Limitations are “antithetical to the concept of a free press”

Salon’s Brian Karem, who torments Biden’s press secretaries with probing questions the same way he did the spokespeople for former President Donald Trump, authored the brief letter to Jean-Pierre that was signed and endorsed by 67 other journalists.

“We once again respectfully request the Biden administration — without exception — re-open all of the traditional venues for presidential remarks at the White House, including the East Room and the South Court Auditorium, for any reporter admitted to the White House campus,” Karem wrote.

“The current method of allowing a limited number of reporters into these events is not only restrictive and antithetical to the concept of a free press, but it has been done without any transparent process into how reporters are selected to cover these events,” the letter continued. “We are all left wondering who is making these decisions and what are the criteria on which they are based?”

Karem acknowledged the reasonableness of the initial restrictions due to the pandemic, but noted that while nearly all other COVID-related restrictions had been eased, “we’ve never gotten an explanation as to why the areas that have traditionally been opened to all press remain restricted.”

“Efforts to limit access to the president cannot be defended”

The letter then addressed the opaque process by which the White House selects which reporters will be included in the “pool” that is permitted to cover certain events while all other journalists are relegated to wait for increasingly rare “open press remarks” for a possible chance to interact with or ask questions of the president.

“The continued inability of the White House 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 defender of the First Amendment,” Karem wrote. “The incongruity of these restrictions underscores the belief by many reporters that the administration seeks to limit access to the president by anyone outside of the pool, or anyone who might ask a question the administration doesn’t want to answer.”

“Let us be candid. Our job is not to be liked, nor is it to be concerned about whether or not you like what we ask. A reporter’s ability to question the most powerful man in our government shouldn’t be discretionary. The administration’s continued efforts to limit access to the president cannot be defended,” the letter concluded. “Any notion that space is ‘limited’ is not supported by the fact that every other president before Biden (including Trump) allowed full access to the very same spaces without making us fill out a request form prior to admittance.”

Slow-boiling scandal for nearly a year now

The New York Post reported that Karem’s letter followed months of concerted behind-the-scenes efforts by other journalists and the White House Correspondents Association to convince the White House to reverse course and ease the media restrictions it had imposed without explanation in mid-202, albeit to no avail.

Indeed, there has been grumblings about the limitations for nearly a year now, different reporters have received different answers to straightforward questions about the selection process — to say nothing of professed ignorance by White House communications staff — and this isn’t even Karem’s first letter demanding change, as he fired off a similar missive to former press secretary Jen Psaki in April which asserted that he had been “told point-blank” that the reason he wasn’t picked for events was “because I’m not liked and that I give you all grief.”

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