We may currently be as close to state-run news as America ever has been.
The Daily Beast reports that the Biden administration has been screening questions from reporters ahead of press briefings.
The claim and the White House’s response
According to The Daily Beast, the White House communications team has been asking reporters to reveal the questions that they plan on asking White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during press briefings.
The outlet based its report on “three sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as written communications review by The Daily Beast.”
The White House did provide a statement on the matter to The Daily Beast.
“Our goal is to make the daily briefing as useful and informative as possible for both reporters and the public,” a White House spokesperson 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.”
The fine line
Jeffrey McCall, a DePauw University professor and media critic, explained to Fox News the risk involved here.
“The White House press office needs to balance this matter carefully,” he said. “It does make sense, on one level, for the press secretary to be prepared in advance to best respond to topics on reporters’ minds. On the other hand, gathering questions in advance could well appear to veteran reporters that press secretary Psaki is pre-screening questions or pre-preparing spin.”
According to McCall, the former is excusable, whereas the latter is anything but.
“If, however, the process is designed to duck the tough questions or prepare rhetorical cover, then the risk factor is eliminated and the pressers look staged.”
You be the judge
The Biden administration has faced a lot of criticism already for its handling of press briefings. With regard to Biden, the pattern has been that he makes some comments, doesn’t take any questions, exits, and then Psaki takes over shortly thereafter. And, Psaki, herself, has been criticized for her non-answers to important questions.
Considering this, so far, the presumption has to be that Psaki is screening questions in order to either avoid difficult ones or to prepare spin.