The Washington Times - January 8, 2014, 01:18PM

A day after former Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized Vice President Joseph R. Biden as essentially worthless, the White House Wednesday allowed journalists to photograph Mr. Biden having lunch with President Obama.

Photographers and a television cameraman were ushered into the president’s private dining room off the Oval Office to take pictures and video of Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama conversing in shirtsleeves over lunch.

SEE RELATED: Shooting the messenger: Gates bashed for book critical of Obama, White House team

The two men lunch together often, but it’s a rarity for photographers to be allowed in to witness the scene. The White House clearly is trying to fight back against Mr. Gates’ claims, in a new book, that Mr. Biden is routinely wrong about foreign policy and national security issues.Mr. Biden is considering a run for the presidency in 2016.

White House press secretary Jay Carney denied the lunch was staged, saying it was “a coincidence” coming after news of Mr. Gates’ criticism. He said the White House was trying to fulfill a commitment to journalists to be more open.

“We have been committed to looking for ways to provide greater access to photographers,” Mr. Carney said.

He said Mr. Obama “greatly appreciates” Mr. Biden’s counsel and has full faith in him.

“We don’t need to reinforce that — it’s a fact,” Mr. Carney said.