On Thursday, an open letter was sent to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, signed by nearly 70 journalists, demanding that the Biden Administration lift numerous restrictions on press events going forward.
The New York Post reports that the letter, with 68 signatories attached to it, marks a rare display of outright disagreement between the mainstream media and the Biden White House. Among other demands, the letter calls for the administration to be more transparent with its screening process for press access, and to reopen large press events to all journalists.
“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 says in part. “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.”
Ever since Biden came to power, his aides in the press office have not disclosed to the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) the exact selection criteria for press participation in certain presidential events. Some reporters, in response to their questions about the process, have received conflicting answers about the qualifications for access.
“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,” the letter continues, “or anyone who might ask a question the administration doesn’t want asked.”
“Let us be candid,” the letter adds. “Our job is not to be liked, nor is it to be concerned about whether or not you like what we ask. Reporters’ ability to question the most powerful man in our government shouldn’t be discretionary.”
Among the letter’s signatories were Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich and Kevin Corke, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, CBS’s Ed O’Keefe, Newsmax’s James Rosen, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, and former ABC anchor and White House reporter Sam Donaldson, among others. The letter’s second signature was from CBS News Radio’s Steven Portnoy, who also serves as the president of the WHCA. Over half of the reporters currently seated in the White House press briefing room’s roster signed onto the letter.
The WHCA has apparently had these grievances with the Biden Administration since early on in Biden’s tenure, with this letter being the result of months of behind-the-scenes complaints and failed negotiations with the administration to lift such restrictions.
In July of 2021, Portnoy directly told Joe Biden about the press corps’ demands for less restrictions during a press conference with then-Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel; when Portnoy said that “we’re looking forward to the day we can have even more reporters all the way to the back of the room,” Biden responded with “obviously I know why they elected you president.”