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WH press asking reporters for questions before Jen Psaki’s briefing despite promising ‘transparency’

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has tried to find out questions from reporters before her press briefings, it emerged Tuesday.

The attempts to probe for what she will be asked at the on-camera briefings caused such concern that it was raised at a private meeting of the White House Correspondents Association, the Daily Beast reported.

Multiple sources said leaders of the White House Correspondents Association, a group dedicated to maintaining journalists’ access to the executive branch of government, advised reporters to push back against any of these requests from Biden’s press team or to not reply.

White House reporters also expressed concern that the disclosure that Psaki’s team were trying to find out what she would be asked could create the perception they are coordinating with the messaging political communication staff are trying to push for their bosses.

There is no suggestion any reporters complied with the White House and the meeting last Friday was the first opportunity for the association to discuss the issue since Psaki began her role less than two weeks ago. 

‘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,’ a White House correspondent said, according to The Daily Beast. ‘That’s not really a free press at all.’

‘It p***ed off enough reporters for people to flag it for the [WHCA] for them to deal with it,’ another source said. 

The White House did not deny that Psaki has asked journalists to preview questions they plan to ask but said the goal is to make briefings to be ‘informative.’  

A report Monday evening revealed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tries to find out and field questions from reporters before press briefings

The revelations have sparked a debate among journalists who cover the White House, with some claiming it's improper and other's maintaining it's normal protocol among political press teams

The revelations have sparked a debate among journalists who cover the White House, with some claiming it’s improper and other’s maintaining it’s normal protocol among political press teams

Politico reporter Tara Palmeri lamented the report reveals that if Psaki doesn't like a question, she can refuse to call on a certain reporter. In her only two weeks as White House press secretary, Psaki has called on every reporter in the briefing room – sometimes more than once

Politico reporter Tara Palmeri lamented the report reveals that if Psaki doesn’t like a question, she can refuse to call on a certain reporter. In her only two weeks as White House press secretary, Psaki has called on every reporter in the briefing room – sometimes more than once

Former Bloomberg White House correspondent Cheryl Bolen Smelson said: 'When I covered the WH my questions were mostly obscure policy/regulatory/legislative in nature I'd often email a Q to the press office in the morning knowing I could get an informed answer from @joshearnest during the briefing'

Former Bloomberg White House correspondent Cheryl Bolen Smelson said: ‘When I covered the WH my questions were mostly obscure policy/regulatory/legislative in nature I’d often email a Q to the press office in the morning knowing I could get an informed answer from @joshearnest during the briefing’

‘Our goal is to make the daily briefing as useful and informative as possible for both reporters and the public,’ a White House spokesperson told DailyMail.com. 

‘Part of meeting that objective means regularly engaging with the reporters who will be in the briefing room to understand how the White House can be most helpful in getting them the information they need.’

The official added: ‘That two-way conversation is an important part of keeping the American people updated about how government is serving them.’

Psaki promised ‘transparency’ at her first briefing and an attempt to change the tone from the Trump era, which saw the press briefing become irregular – and at one point canceled for almost a year. Successive press secretaries also used their public interactions with the press to berate individual reporters and the mainstream media at large. 

Trump’s administration also invited sympathetic reporters to press briefings, including representatives of One American News and on one occasion Sean Spicer, Trump’s own former press secretary who now hosts a Newsmax show. 

The report Monday evening sparked a debate among journalists and politicians, with some enraged over the incident and others claiming asking for questions ahead of time to prepare is not unusual. 

Concern about White House officials trying to find out questions in advance covers administrations of both parties at least as far back as Bill Clinton. 

Donald Trump’s longest-serving White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was known to quiz outlets on their questions before high-profile presidential press conferences or events, two people with direct knowledge outlined to the Daily Beast.

The same was typical during both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations if reporters wanted to interview the president or cabinet members. 

'Hmmm, when I covered the Clinton WH, the morning gaggle was a way for Spox [the White House press secretary] to find out what questions were on reporters's minds in order to answer on camera at the briefing,' Washington Post fact checker editor Glenn Kessler tweeted

‘Hmmm, when I covered the Clinton WH, the morning gaggle was a way for Spox [the White House press secretary] to find out what questions were on reporters’s minds in order to answer on camera at the briefing,’ Washington Post fact checker editor Glenn Kessler tweeted

Psaki has previously attracted criticism from the right for having worked as an analyst for CNN – something which Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also did. There have been accusations from pro-Trump commentators that Psaki is getting ‘softball’ questions at briefings. 

But the disclosure that she or her aides had attempted to find out questions divided political reporters in Washington. 

‘To everyone asking why this matters: If Psaki doesn’t like your question, she doesn’t call on you,’ Politico reporter Tara Palmeri posted to Twitter.

In Psaki’s first week-and-a-half as White House press secretary, she has called on every reporter seated in the briefing room – sometimes more than once. 

Palmeri added in another tweet: ‘This harassment of reporters is just ‘fake news’ by another name. If Psaki knows you have a tough question she doesn’t have to call on you. So far, she hasn’t had to deal with a real bomb.’ 

Other reporters downplayed the disclosure, and said these protocols are not out of the norm for past administrations and that in pre-Trump White House there had been informal off-camera questions to the press secretary in a ‘gaggle’ which meant they had insight into the issues reporters were likely to push.

Additionally, the COVID restrictions at the White House mean that journalists are no longer able to walk into Psaki’s office or those of her aides to talk to them, something which former press staff say helped them work out what might be asked. 

‘Hmmm, when I covered the Clinton WH, the morning gaggle was a way for Spox [the White House press secretary] to find out what questions were on reporters’s minds in order to answer on camera at the briefing,’ Washington Post fact checker editor Glenn Kessler tweeted. 

‘This story (toward the end) kind of concedes this is similar in a pandemic world. Fewer ‘circle backs’!’

Former Bloomberg White House correspondent Cheryl Bolen Smelson took to Twitter to weigh in and said she would ask the Obama White House questions by email then press for an answer at the briefing.

‘When I covered the WH my questions were mostly obscure policy/regulatory/legislative in nature I’d often email a Q to the press office in the morning knowing I could get an informed answer from @joshearnest during the briefing.’

A Republican communications specialist said that press staff should try to work out what they might be asked. 

Ohio GOP senator Rob Portman’s former communications director, Jeff Sadosky tweeted: ‘Any press team, Dem or GOP, would be failing at its job if they weren’t trying to get a handle of what’s incoming so the spokesperson was prepped ahead of time.

‘This isn’t new, and the reporter is exposing nothing here beyond their own inexperience.’


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