On Monday, it was reported that a practice that has been around for some time was for the White House to have the opportunity to edit administration officials’ quotes prior to their going to print.
What this means is in order for someone’s name to be attached to a quote, the reporter doing the story must transcribe the quote and send it out to the White House communications office for approval. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have looked for that inside the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Freedom of the Press clauses and I couldn’t find it. I even held the Constitution up to the light, upside down, and I poured lemon juice on it and I still wasn’t able to locate the clause.
The Obama White House used this method and so did the Trump White House, though reporters said the Trump White House did it much more sparingly.
Of the White House officials, one reporter told the outlet, “The rule treats them like coddled Capitol Hill pages, and that’s not who they are or the protections they deserve.”
“Have any reporters talked about mutinying?” one reporter asked. “If you start fomenting an insurrection, keep me updated.” That’s an apparent sign that at least some of the reporters don’t like what’s going on.
This whole thing began as a way for reporters to receive more transparency from White House officials. That way, when an official gives a comment off the record, a reporter can reach out to the official and ask them to attach their name to the quote.
Naturally, the Biden administration corrupted the process.
According to longtime chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, Peter Baker, “Instead of transparency, suddenly, the White House realized: ‘Hey, this quote approval thing is a cool thing. We can now control what is in their stories by refusing to allow them to use anything without our approval.’ And it’s a pernicious, insidious, awful practice that reporters should resist.”
The irony here is that the same reporters who hate what the Biden administration is doing in this process will continue to throw cover for the administration to whitewash anything bad that happens.
Reporters don’t want to get on the bad side of the White House’s demands to get approval for quotes they want to use, because they fear they will not get the same transparency or treatment that other reporters who kissed the ring of government would.
“The only way the press has the power to push back against this is if we all band together,” one reporter said.
Politico noted that at least one team of reporters has been talking among themselves about reaching out to other news outlets to push the Biden White House to stop the bastardization of the practice. They have done that before. During the Obama administration, Barack Obama wanted to kick Fox News out of the White House press pool, claiming that they were not a real news organization. In reality, Obama couldn’t stand the fact that Fox didn’t think the president crapped ice cream and rainbows. To their credit, the other news outlets told the White House that if Fox was out, then so were they.
The very same outlets used to use anonymous sources all the time to publish Fake News about the Trump White House. Now White House press secretary Jen Psaki no longer likes the practice.
“We would welcome any outlet banning the use of anonymous background quotes that attack people personally or speak to internal processes from people who don’t even work in the Administration,” Psaki said. “At the same time, we make policy experts available in a range of formats to ensure context and substantive detail is available for stories. If outlets are not comfortable with that attribution for those officials, they, of course, don’t need to utilize those voices.”
In other words, do what we tell you if you want White House access. So much for the most transparent administration in history.