As Nick Arama wrote earlier, the Biden administration is doing something Trump would have been drawn and quartered over by the press if it happened under his watch: Severely limiting press access to Border Patrol agents and migrant facilities where thousands of unaccompanied minors are reportedly being kept in conditions that human rights groups and even some Democrats have said in so many words are deplorable.
According to NBC News, “Border Patrol officials have been told to deny all media requests for ‘ride-alongs’ with agents along the southern land border; local press officers are instructed to send all information queries, even from local media, to the press office in Washington for approval.”
Further, the news outlet noted that media requests for photos from overcrowded border facilities “have been denied.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about lack of access during today’s press briefing by Fox News White House correspondent Kristin Fisher. The exchange was notable not just because of how Psaki tap-danced around the question but also by how Fisher played the Trump card, with an emphasis on the capital “T”, while using Biden’s pledge to be the most transparent administration ever against him. Here’s the transcript:
Fisher: “Is the White House or DHS instructing border agents to refuse ride-along requests from reporters? Because that’s what a lot of our folks on the ground are hearing.”
Psaki: “Again, I think we’ve seen, watching a number of the reports you all do, a number of Border Patrol officials who are quoted in them, who appear in them, and certainly from the White House we support that. It’s coordinated through the Department of Homeland Security and I point you to them for any additional questions about the logistics of press access.”
Fisher: “But our reporters used to be able to get ridealongs during the Trump administration. And you all came in and promised to be the most truthful and transparent administration, and you all, you know, oversee the Department of Homeland Security. So, if you all wanted to grant access to the press, couldn’t you just tell DHS to do it?”
Psaki: “Again, we fully support transparency, and I would encourage you to talk to the Department of Homeland Security about any requests you have for press access or what you’re looking to accomplish at the border.”
.@PressSec is asked if the admin is refusing to allow ride-along requests from reporters on the border
"It's coordinated through DHS and I'd point you to them for any logistics on press access." pic.twitter.com/nGcvUl0RHp
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 17, 2021
As I’ve said before – and as Fisher noted in her follow-up question – it’s bizarre that Psaki keeps falling on the “contact DHS for more info” talking point with the press considering, ya know, DHS is a federal department under Biden’s control and is supposed to ultimately act at his direction. He could inform them directly or have one of his surrogates instruct border officials to be more transparent about what’s happening at the border as well as get the ball rolling to allow press photographers access to the facilities in question so they can get photos and videos without violating the privacy of those who are being housed there.
The lack of transparency from this administration on a number of fronts is appalling, and what makes it especially so is that not only does Psaki routinely refuse to provide any cogent answers to questions about the border crisis (beyond “blame Trump!“), but neither President Biden nor Vice President Harris are willing to talk specifics.
I refuse to believe it’s because they simply “haven’t been briefed.” They know what’s going on and because of “message control” (read: keeping reporters away from either of them) and not wanting to prove Republicans who have raised issues about Biden’s immigration polices right, they’re keeping them close to the vest.
Fisher is right here. For all this administration’s talk about supposedly being the most transparent administration in history, they’re doing a lousy job of it. And in the process, the media is being reminded that despite all their grievances with the Trump administration they gave reporters much more leeway on covering issues like these than this administration is apparently willing to grant them.
That’s not something Psaki wants to hear, but good on Fisher for making the comparison. Because there are few things that sting this administration more than being told the Trump administration did something better. That might – might – just be the spark that’s needed to get this White House to start being more upfront with the American people as to just what’s really going on at the southern border.