When Donald Trump was president, hurling around terms like “fake news” and “enemy of the people,” liberal White House correspondents portrayed themselves as valiant “firefighters” spraying the hose of accountability in defense of free speech, the free press, and the American people.
It was an asinine metaphor for a group of coddled, over-educated, over-compensated people whose hands and feelings were softer than one of Mike Lindell’s MyPillows.
Despite that, the media’s attitude toward Trump mirrored what real, honest-to-goodness firefighters would call an “offensive attack,” and to many news consumers, it certainly was offensive.
Well, Joe Biden promised to end all of that. His election offered a return to “normalcy” in the briefing room. Team Biden would bring back “facts” and “truth” and “transparency,” even though the team captain was a notorious liar and flip-flopper who dropped out of his first presidential race because of plagiarism.
It was foolish to believe that reporters who share Biden’s worldview would be anything as close to as combative with him as they were with Trump, a man they openly loathed.
Still, Biden might have finally poked the bear.
The Daily Beast reported on Monday that even the White House press corps, despite sharing and promoting Biden’s views, are annoyed by how they are being treated.
Per the Daily Beast: “If you’re a reporter with a tough question for the White House press secretary, Joe Biden’s staff wouldn’t mind knowing about it in advance. According to three sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as written communications reviewed by The Daily Beast, the new president’s communications staff have already on occasion probed reporters to see what questions they plan on asking new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when called upon during briefings.”
Now Psaki is a different story.
Unlike Trump’s Kayleigh McEnany, who brought the receipts to every briefing and wasn’t shy about showing them, Psaki’s lack of answers comes with so many promises to “circle back” that she resembles Denny Hamlin looking for the checkered flag at Daytona.
You’d think it might help her to know the questions in advance. But there might finally be a line that even the empathetic White House press corps might not cross.
“The requests prompted concerns among the White House press corps, whose members, like many reporters, are sensitive to the perception that they are coordinating with political communications staffers,” the Daily Beast reported – a summary that amuses those on the right who assumed that happened all along.
The White House Correspondents Association held a Zoom call on Friday, and some who attended told the Daily Beast that bosses of print journalists told their people to resist or simply ignore the requests.
One reporter told the Daily Beast, “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. That’s not really a free press at all.”
Another added, “It pissed off enough reporters for people to flag it for the [WHCA] for them to deal with it.”
The Biden administration defended this practice, saying it “has tried to reach out to reporters directly in order to avoid appearing to dodge questions during briefings.” Yes, and Psaki still must repeatedly “circle back,” which suggests she’s unprepared.
It remains to be seen, but the reaction to the situation reported by the Daily Beast may finally encourage the media to treat Biden more like a politician than a savior.
After all, they endured months of being treated like extras in his big show.
He rarely held press conferences as a candidate, even when he left the basement, and then when he did, took only softball questions about how awful Trump was from a handful of pre-selected journalists.
And when a reporter did ask a real question, Biden got prickly, and the media, unlike in the Trump era, meekly took his rage.
Perhaps instead of regurgitating talking points the media – other than Fox’s Peter Doocy, who has been willing to raise hypocrisy and unpleasantries – have realized their paychecks depend on actually gathering news that occasionally knocks Biden and his team off stride.
And so we may, at last, see the collapse of the cocoon they’ve erected around the new president.