President Biden has been annoyed with the American press asking questions that are not “on point” during recent setups with foreign leaders in the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki admitted Monday.
On Friday, questions were raised after Biden seemingly took a swipe at the US press during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, saying the India press is “much better behaved” than the US press corps.
“I think, with your permission, you could not answer questions because they won’t ask any questions on point,” he said.
That followed Biden snubbing the American press corps when he declined to take pool reporters’ questions during the public portion of his sit-down with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson — despite Johnson calling on two British reporters.
After a brief conversation for the cameras between the two leaders, Johnson thanked Biden for hosting him and asked: “I think — would it be OK if we just have a couple of questions? Just a — just a couple of questions.”
“Good luck,” Biden said.
As soon as Johnson answered questions from two British reporters, White House aides — known as “wranglers” — began shouting and ushering reporters out of the Oval Office as they tried to ask more questions.
“That’s absurd,” one reporter groused as they left the executive mansion. “Two British reporters get questions and we don’t get anything.”
CBS News Radio White House correspondent Steven Portnoy reported that the members of the editorial pool immediately went to Psaki’s office to complain “that no American reporters were recognized for questions in the president’s Oval Office.”
During Monday’s daily press briefing, Psaki was pressed on Biden’s comments with the Indian leader and asked why he criticized US reporters.
“I would note, first, that he took questions on Friday, and he took questions again today,” Psaki began. “And I think what he said is that they’re not always ‘on point.’”
“Now I know that isn’t something that anyone wants to hear in here, but what I think he was converting, as you know, today, he might want to talk about COVID vaccines [and] 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,” she continued.
Psaki added that she did not believe the president’s comments were a “hard cut.”
Later in Monday’s briefing, Psaki was pushed further and asked why Biden could call the Indian press “better behaved” than the US press when India ranks 142nd in press freedoms, according to Reporters without Borders.
Psaki sidestepped the question and instead turned to the president’s commitment to press freedom, claiming that he has spoken with the press more than 140 times.
“He certainly respects the role of the press, the role of the freedom of press, the free press, [and] we ensure that we have press with us, of course, when we travel, that we have press with us for sprays in foreign capitals and we will continue to. And I think that speaks to his commitment to freedom of press around the world.”