The White House press conference erupted in protest Monday after Associated Press (AP) reporter Josh Boak ended the briefing early.
Boak called for the end of the briefing after only 39 minutes, leading New York Post reporter Steve Nelson to stand up and tell Boak that reporters in the back rows had unanswered questions. Steve Portnoy, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), has said it is tradition for the oldest wire service, the AP, to determine the end of the briefings whether or not other reporters have questions.
The White House press corps just had a grueling debate among members after Jen Psaki’s briefing
A wire reporter in front row called briefing over after about 40 minutes. I told him we had more questions in the back and others agreed
— Steven Nelson (@stevennelson10) March 7, 2022
Photographs show Portnoy standing at the front of the room responding to tensions between reporters, which lasted for around six minutes. (RELATED: ‘Let Me Finish’: Doocy And Psaki Share Heated Exchange Over Rising Gas Prices)
The AP’s Josh Boak quickly left, leaving CBS News Radio correspondent & White House Correspondents Association prez Steven Portnoy to deal with the room.
This went on for at least six minutes (as the camera feed cut out, but again, no audio). Some were taping it on their phones. pic.twitter.com/vav2Jj5Pdu
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) March 7, 2022
Tensions boiled over when Lynn Sweet, the Washington-Bureau Chief at the Chicago Sun-Times, called for an end to the tradition of the oldest wire service determining the end of the briefing so that all attendees “feel they have a shot” to speak, according to tapes obtained by the Daily Caller.
“Baby steps, can we maybe think about ending the tradition of having one of our own end the briefing and let the White House end the briefing?” Sweet suggested. Another reporter chimed in that it “is not right” for one reporter to end the event.
Portnoy replied “that is a decision for the White House press secretary to make,” tapes revealed. He told the reporters he would consider the issue at stake, leading a handful of reporters to cheer.
3/ The response to her protest was “that is a decision up to the White House.” Back row reporters pressed for a commitment from the front row that the tradition should be challenged to at least let the WH end the briefing whenever they want
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) March 7, 2022
One reporter argued that the tradition has caused a roadblock in getting her name out to the public and being able to represent Christian and African American media, according to the tapes.
“I’ve been here on my third president and people don’t even know my name,” one reporter said. “That’s significant to me and women’s history month. As an African American woman, it’s significant to me as a person who represents Christian media, African American media, all kinds of media and I never get an opportunity to bring some of these key issues that are unique to my audiences to the table.”
Real Clear News White House correspondent Phillip Melanchthon Wegmann criticized the old tradition, which had been seemingly revived by White House press secretary Jen Psaki in the early months of President Joe Biden’s administration.
“An open question: What is the utility of empowering a wire service to call an end to a White House briefing? Is it for the benefit of @PressSec? Or for a few reporters in the front row? Or the entire press corps? I do hope some serious thought, that is to say, not just nostalgia, went into whether it was wise to revive this tradition,” Wegmann said.