Despite the media’s disdain for the former president, numerous media figures have admitted that the Trump administration was far more accessible and transparent toward the media than the Biden administration has been thus far.
Now, a new report has exposed the White House’s practice of exercising content editing and veto power over stories from reporters that involve quotes attributable to members of the administration, the New York Post reported.
The White House press corps is none too pleased with the arrangement and some reporters are privately discussing a “mutiny” in protest of the practice or having several outlets band together to forcibly push back against the White House, according to the Post.
Biden White House exposed
The issue was first raised in Politico‘s West Wing Playbook on Monday as a way to expose the tactic of “background with quote approval” that was being employed “frequently” by the Biden White House as a way to control what does and doesn’t appear in various media reports.
Under the White House rule, a reporter can only directly attribute information derived from an interview with an administration official if the reporter first submits the transcribed quotes to the White House communications team for them to first “approve, veto or edit them.”
Politico acknowledged that it and most other media outlets have begrudgingly gone along with the tactic, if only to get their stories published in a timely manner, but that reporters from a variety of outlets were increasingly balking at the “extra measure of control” the White House was wielding to “craft press coverage” of the Biden administration.
It was further noted that while this particular tactic wasn’t exactly new, the frequency of its utilization had been greatly increased. The tactic was first employed by the “tightly controlled” Obama White House, continued on at an admittedly far lesser extent under the Trump White House, but was then employed by Biden’s 2020 campaign and re-instituted at the Obama-era level by Biden’s White House.
The Politico report cited comments from anonymous reporters about a combined effort to stop the White House from using the tactic, and it was further noted that both the Associated Press and The New York Times had ostensibly prohibited their reporters from engaging in that practice of seeking White House approval, though it was unclear how strictly that prohibition was actually enforced.
After an initial attempt by Politico to solicit a comment from the White House on its frequent use of the tactic to “approve, veto, or edit” media stories, White House press secretary Jen Psaki eventually released a statement that appeared to defend the tactic and cast aspersions on the media for complaining about it.
“We would welcome any outlet banning the use of anonymous background quotes that attack people personally or speak to internal processes from people who don’t even work in the Administration,” Psaki said.
“At the same time, we make policy experts available in a range of formats to ensure context and substantive detail is available for stories,” she added. “If outlets are not comfortable with that attribution for those officials they, of course, don’t need to utilize those voices.”
Unless the media want to continue to submit their stories for White House editing and approval — a practice that should horrify anyone who claims to cherish the freedom of the press — then they better take collective action to ensure that practice, if not abolished entirely, isn’t abused to favorably shape media reports about the Biden administration.