We’ve written for weeks here about the ongoing issues the White House press corps have been dealing with concerning the press availability – or lack thereof, I should say – of President Joe Biden.
When White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked when Biden would hold his first solo presser a few weeks ago, she was non-committal, citing the need for setting one up in a “COVID-safe way.” She remained defensive, vague, and testy about the issue until a little over a week ago, when she told another reporter who inquired that they would be scheduling one for him by the end of the month.
As my colleague Nick Arama reported earlier, we now know what the date for Biden’s first official solo presser will be – March 25th. Why the White House felt the need to announce it 9 days out is anybody’s guess, but as they did so, another troubling press availability issue involving a high-level member of the Biden administration was revealed, this time by a reporter in Colorado.
Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to the state today to tout the recently passed COVID “relief” bill, which fell $600 per eligible person short of the campaign promise then-candidate Joe Biden pledged to voters. According to Denver Channel politics reporter Meghan Lopez, local reporters were “not allowed on the tour and will not get any access to the Vice President to ask questions”:
Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting Colorado today to talk about how the $1.9 trillion stimulus package will help our state. Unfortunately, local media outlets are not allowed on the tour and will not get any access to the Vice President to ask questions. #copolitics
— Meghan Lopez (@Meghan_Lopez) March 16, 2021
Most likely, the only press access Harris was giving on the trip was to the national traveling press corps, with whom the Biden admin’s handlers are more familiar in terms of knowing who will ask the lighter questions and who will be tougher.
The constant limiting of the press’s availability with the President of the United States is bad enough, but this just makes it worse, and part of a disturbing pattern. Usually, these types of trips from presidents and vice presidents involve interviews with local news outlets, which politicians typically view as more friendly and receptive to what they have to say. But that didn’t happen in this case, and it definitely raises more questions as to just who might really be running the show at the White House. Is it Jen Psaki? Biden chief of staff Ron Klain?
For all the talk of how Biden is prone to incoherent ramblings, Harris is no media maven herself. Harris has a tendency to laugh through interviews when she doesn’t want to answer difficult questions, and when she does, she’s prone to getting in trouble with her double-speak. Most recently, she landed in hot water over her comments about Trump supposedly leaving the Biden administration no vaccine rollout plan, a claim that had been contradicted by Biden chief medical adviser Dr. Tony Fauci just days prior. Predictably, Fauci himself then flip-flopped and defended her comments.
Some in the media even sounded alarm bells last year about lack of press availability with Kamala Harris after Biden announced her as his VP pick, with one reporter saying the whole issue reeked of a “foul stench of insecurity.” Those issues are front and center yet again, barely two months into their time in office.
My guess is that Harris is not sitting down with local reporters in Colorado because the administration is unfamiliar with the local press and wants to avoid the headaches she causes when she starts talking. Best to keep things controlled and scripted, right?
Trump was ruthlessly criticized by the press for his adversarial approach and Pence was treated like a drone by the media, but one thing that is not in dispute about either of them, as far as the press is concerned, is that they didn’t hide from the media for all their grievances with them.
For all the talk from the Biden-Harris administration about “restoring respect” between the press corps and the White House, they’ve done a poor job of putting that plan into action. But after the way the media let Biden get away with conducting his campaign in the basement for most of last year, with not much engagement with journalists beyond the friendly ones, really the main people to blame here for the administration continuing to limit access falls on the press themselves.
Doesn’t make it right, but that’s the reality of the situation. And now, here we are with an administration that takes advantage of it by restricting access to the two most powerful people in the country, presumably because neither one of them are effective messengers — which leaves the American people with a lot of unanswered questions in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, a dangerous border crisis, and an economy that is still trying to sprout its sea legs.
If it wasn’t obvious before, it should be now: We are so screwed.