Jen Psaki defends Biden saying Indian media is ‘better behaved’ than US

Psaki backs Biden saying the Indian press is ‘better behaved’ because US reporter questions aren’t always ‘on point’ or ‘on the topic he’s discussing that day’

  • Psaki was grilled on Biden’s comment that US reporters aren’t ‘on point’
  • He advised Indian PM Modi not to take their questions
  • He called the Indian press ‘better behaved’ 
  • Psaki said reporter questions ‘are not always about the topic he’s talking about in that day’
  • She noted that Biden got off topic-questions, which he answered while getting his COVID booster shot 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Psaki defended President Joe Biden‘s remarks slapping at US reporters for asking questions that aren’t ‘on point’ in front of a foreign head of state – and said his words weren’t meant as a ‘hard cut’ on them.

She fielded multiple questions Monday from the media about Biden’s comments to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where Biden urged his counterpart not to take questions and appeared to criticize US reporters. 

‘I think what we’re going to do is bring in the press,’ Biden said as the two men sat down in the Oval Office Friday before a bilateral meeting. ‘The Indian press is much better behaved than the American press. I got to watch out, they’ll knock one of those down,’ Biden said as reporters began to come into the room.

‘I think, with your permission, you should not answer questions because they won’t ask any questions on point,’ Biden advised him. 

It was a remark that was itself off topic from the message Biden meant to convey about cooperation among a group of foreign leaders known as the Quad. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks at a press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on September 27 2021 in Washington, DC, where she defended President Biden’s comments on the press at a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister

His remarks came during a week when Biden took hits in the media for repeatedly avoiding attempts by reporters to question him – and where he ultimately did take some questions at a different Friday event to cap off a week with diplomatic intrigue and trouble at the border.

Reporters wanted Psaki to explain Biden’s beef with their questions – and if it was appropriate to urge a visiting leader not to take them.

‘Well, I would note first that he took questions on Friday and he took questions again today. And I think what he said is that they’re not always on point,’ said Psaki.

‘Now I know that isn’t something that anyone wants to hear in here, but what I think he was conveying is, you know, today he might want to talk about COVID vaccine. Some of the questions were about that he might want to talk about, and some of the questions are not always about the topic he’s talking about in that day. I don’t think it was meant to be a hard cut at the members of media – people he’s taken questions from today, and, and on Friday as well.’

Biden did indeed take multiple questions Monday when there was a silence as he got his Pfizer vaccine booster shot. The White House routinely organizes events meant to convey a ‘message of the day’ – and reporters nearly always try to ask their own questions based on what they want to know. 

Psaki said Biden was not reticent to take questions in front of foreign leaders. Also last week, while sitting down with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it was Johnson who fielded a pair of questions from British media, and Biden gave responses – but without calling on US media. Psaki later indicated Johnson had not telegraphed his decision to call on reporters in advance. 

‘He’d already taken questions that day I think that was the context of, of his comments [Friday],’ Psaki said. ‘And he’s taken question standing next to a foreign leader many many times in the past and will continue to.’

Then Psaki got a question on India’s own human rights record – it came in 142 out of 180 on a world press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), due to intimidation of press who write stories deemed anti-government. 

‘Having now worked for the president, serving in this role for nine months, having seen that he’s taking questions from the press more than 140 times, including today, and Friday, that he certainly respects the role of the press the role of the freedom of press the free press,’ said Psaki.

‘We ensure that we have press with us, of course, when we travel, that we have pressed with us for sprays in foreign capitals and we will continue to. And I think that should speak to his commitment to freedom of press around the world,’ she said.


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