We reported yesterday on how White House press secretary Jen Psaki has been approaching some reporters in advance of the daily press briefings to find out what their questions are. According to the Daily Beast, Psaki’s tactics have “prompted concerns among the White House press corps, whose members are sensitive to the perception that they are coordinating with political communications staffers”:
According to three sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as written communications reviewed by The Daily Beast, the new president’s communications staff have already on occasion probed reporters to see what questions they plan on asking new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when called upon during briefings.
One reporter raised the issue during an informal White House Correspondents Association Zoom call last Friday. According to multiple sources, leaders at the meeting advised print reporters to push back against requests by the White House press team to learn of questions in advance, or simply 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. “That’s not really a free press at all.”
The Daily Beast’s report was amplified by Politico’s “Playbook” co-author Tara Palmeri, who tweeted out the story:
— Tara Palmeri (@tarapalmeri) February 2, 2021
Palmeri’s tweet triggered former Obama speechwriter and self-proclaimed “Obama bro” Jon Favreau, who rushed to Psaki’s defense by proclaiming “Tara’s lying to you”:
This is a lie. Tara’s lying to you, and worse, apparently thinks you won’t read the full piece:
“In each of the early press conferences, she’s fielded questions from every reporter in the room.” https://t.co/GCmVs2fF9A
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) February 2, 2021
Almost immediately afterwards, however, the guy known in conservative circles as the weirdo who groped a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton, completely undercut his own argument:
Also, what the WH is doing is completely normal, as the piece also points out later: pic.twitter.com/dQsxhcuWl7
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) February 2, 2021
Notice how at first the story was “a lie” – but then it was true and “completely normal” for press secretaries to do this.
Former CNN producer turned media analyst Steve Krakauer called out Favreau’s hot take for what it was:
This is gaslighting. Having reporters give the White House comms team "a sense of the topics” that may be asked is completely different than requesting (or demanding) the exact questions. https://t.co/Qx0HBiZz1g
— Steve Krakauer (@SteveKrak) February 2, 2021
Bingo. Not only that, but just imagine for five seconds how Democrats and the media would have erupted in fury far, far more than what we saw this week if Kayleigh McEnany or any of Trump’s other White House press secretaries would have been caught doing this. Unlike in this instance, every single reporter she talked to would eagerly go on the record as decrying the practice, and we’d hear endless reports from Brian Stelter and Co. about how this was an attack on the freedoms of an independent press and all that.
Instead, we’re getting stories from unnamed journalists who just a few weeks in are already growing frustrated at being treated as operatives by the White House. The likely reasons why they won’t speak up on the record are just as revealing as the news that Psaki is having chats with some of them in advance.
Firstly, they truly believe Team Biden has “a commitment to factual information” in spite of numerous instances that have shown the exact opposite is true. Second, despite outward appearances, many of these reporters are “objective” in name only and demonstrated that often during Biden’s run for president. And now the chickens are coming home to roost for them as the Biden comms team expects continued obedience.
It’s embarrassing. And they know it.
Those who really are worried that they’re coming off looking like arms of the White House only have themselves to blame. That goes double for any of the fauxfended nitwits from the Obama administration, which wrote the handbook on how to manipulate the press corps to their advantage.