Multiple members of the White House press core pushed White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday to explain why President Joe Biden has taken so few questions in recent weeks, calling for the president to hold a formal press conference.
There have been numerous instances of Biden turning his back on reporters or aides shouting down questions since the president first started facing criticism for his execution of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of August. The lack of transparency has continued as his administration faces a mounting immigration crisis.
A reporter listed out the many issues Biden has yet to weigh in on, including the “collapse” of negotiations around police reform on Capitol Hill as well as the impending government shutdown, asking when Biden will open himself up to a formal press conference.
“The president knows that he was elected not just to get the pandemic under control and put people back to work, but protect our democracy and stand up for what’s right and be transparent,” Psaki responded. “Certainly part of that is engaging with all of you. I would note that he answered questions 135 times leading up to September, three times last week.”
“But in this month of September, many of the occasions we’ve had have been fleeting,” the reporter pressed. “When can we expect to have an opportunity to ask the president questions in a formal setting?”
Psaki responded that Biden’s choice between holding a formal press conference or taking questions on multiple informal occasions is not of great concern to Americans. She added, however, that Biden will at some point hold a second formal press conference. (RELATED: Biden Walks Away As Reporter Shouts ‘Why Do You Continue To Trust The Taliban?’)
Dissatisfaction with Biden’s availability to the press came to a head in a dramatic moment Tuesday, when U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson took questions from British reporters following his bilateral meeting with Biden, but American reporters were shouted down by White House staff.
Members of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) then marched into Psaki’s office demanding to know when Biden would hold a press conference.
IN THE OVAL OFFICE… @POTUS Biden and British PM @BorisJohnson meet to discuss pandemic, trade and other issues. Johnson took 3 questions. White House aides shouted down U.S. attempts to ask questions. I asked Biden about southern border and we couldn’t decipher what he said. pic.twitter.com/A86kgdfsuc
— Ed O’Keefe (@edokeefe) September 21, 2021
“The entire editorial component of the U.S. pool went immediately into Jen Psaki’s office to register a formal complaint that no American reporters were recognized for questions in the president’s Oval Office, and that wranglers loudly shouted over the president as he seemed to give an answer to Ed O’Keefe’s question about the situation at the southern border,” a Tuesday dispatch from WHCA president Steven Portnoy read.
“Psaki was not aware that the incident had occurred, and suggested that she was not in a position to offer an immediate solution. Your pooler requested a press conference. Psaki suggested the president takes questions several times a week.”