CNN’s Brian Stelter landed an interview with the spokesperson for the most powerful man in America — arguably the world — and he used the time to ask for tips and fish for compliments for his network.
Stelter gave new meaning to the term “softball interview” during his Sunday morning sit-down with White House press secretary Jen Psaki, beginning by asking her what she thought the press was getting wrong in its coverage of President Joe Biden and his agenda. (RELATED: ‘Cause It’s None Of Your F*cking Business’: Greg Gutfeld Torches Brian Stelter On Vaccination-Selfie Criticism)
“What does the press get wrong when covering Biden’s agenda, when you watch and read the news, what do you think we get wrong?” Stelter asked.
“Well, look, I think some of the our muscles have atrophied over the last few years,” Psaki replied, noting that new legislation was aways going to take time. “I don’t know that is the press getting it wrong. I’ll leave you to critique that, Brian. But I think sometimes we forget how strange the last four years were and when we’re returning to a place where democracy is working, where we’re talk with Democrats and Republicans and it feels foreign but this is how it is supposed to work.”
Critics were quick to point out that no one had ever asked anyone working in former President Donald Trump’s administration a question like that. Monica Crowley claimed that was in part because the press did not believe itself capable of being wrong and in part because the Trump administration’s answer would likely have been a lengthy list.
No such question was ever asked of Trump Press Secretaries because 1) the press believed they were always right when, in fact, they were consistently wrong, & 2) the response would have taken days https://t.co/CKM09g3xCQ
— Monica Crowley (@MonicaCrowley) June 6, 2021
Crowley was not alone in her assessment of the situation, either. Mollie Hemingway called the interview “propaganda.”
Our corrupt media are absolutely nothing more than propagandists and should be treated as such. https://t.co/qwxAz40Eyj
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) June 6, 2021
Hemingway’s tweet prompted a response from Stelter, who said, “Maybe only Republican press secretaries are allowed to comment on the news media’s performance – is that your new rule?”
maybe only Republican press secretaries are allowed to comment on the news media’s performance – is that your new rule?
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 6, 2021
Journalist Glenn Greenwald pushed back on Stelter, arguing that no one really cared if Psaki wanted to complain about media. “People are just horrified that you had a few minutes to question the spokesperson for the world’s nominally most powerful politician & started with: Jen, tell us how we’re bad and can be better?” he added.
Nobody is saying Jen Psaki can’t complain about the media (though why would she?).
People are just horrified that you had a few minutes to question the spokesperson for the world’s nominally most powerful politician & started with:
Jen, tell us how we’re bad and can be better? https://t.co/kxKx6Fj0wv
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 6, 2021
Stelter’s next line of inquiry focused on how Psaki kept her cool when reporters asked repetitive or otherwise irritating questions — and he asked her directly why she even bothered calling on outlets like Fox News and Newsmax during press briefings.
Psaki explained that she tried to keep an “even keel” but that questions based on false information occasionally got to her.
“So those questions based on falsehoods come from outlets like Newsmax which does get called on. I know a lot of liberals don’t think Fox should be called on. So why do you call on Fox News and Newsmax?” Stelter asked.
Psaki pushed back, saying that for Biden to be president of all Americans, he needed to get his message across to liberals and conservatives and that meant talking to a broad range of outlets.
Stelter’s next question almost approached the borders of journalism as he briefly prodded Psaki on the fact that Biden has continued to avoid formal press conferences.
“Obviously the press corps wants to talk to the president more often. Why haven’t you held more than one press conference?” Stelter asked, offering her a possible answer to the question when he suggested that maybe Biden avoided more confrontational situations with the press in order to appear more “boring.”
“And in a formal press conference that demands the country’s attention, you have chosen not to go that route. He doesn’t give many interviews either. Is that an attempt to lower the temperature and be boring?” he asked.
Psaki argued that Biden, despite the absence of formal press conferences, had made himself and his surrogates available to take questions fairly regularly.
Instead of pressing further, Stelter simply replied, “I figured you would say that,” and pivoted to lob another softball.
“You were a CNN commentator in between your time working with the Obama administration and now working for Biden. What did you learn here? What did you take from CNN and how does it relate to your job now?” Stelter asked.
Psaki said that working as a commentator had given her practice in responding to breaking news in real time, adding, “That is certainly good preparation for standing in front of the camera at the briefing every day and there are also a few people who I may have sat on that set with in the past who had strongly different views from mine. And that is sometimes is replicated in the briefing room with some questions or a line of questioning that comes up.”