White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded Monday to a Politico report that the communications team “frequently” requires reporters to send over direct quotes from administration officials for editing and approval before they can be published.
“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,” Ms. Psaki said in a prepared statement to Politico. “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,” she added.
Ms. Psaki was responding to complaints by at least five White House reporters who told Politico the Biden administration “frequently” demands that interviews with administration officials be conducted on “background with quote approval.”
“In practice, that means the information from an interview can be used in the story, but in order for the person’s name to be attached to a quote, the reporter must transcribe the quotes they want and then send them to the communications team to approve, veto or edit them,” Politico explained.
The outlet admitted in its reporting that it, too, agreed to granting quote approval to the Biden White House as recently as April 28.
“Close to deadline and with our editors giving us side-eye about filing late, we agreed,” wrote Politico’s Alex Thompson and Theodoric Meyer, adding that “at its worst,” quote approval gives public officials “a way to obfuscate or screen their own admissions and words.”
At least one White House reporting team is considering banding together with other outlets to put pressure on the Biden administration to end the practice, Politico reported.
“The rule treats them like coddled Capitol Hill pages and that’s not who they are or the protections they deserve,” one reporter told the outlet. “The only way the press has the power to push back against this is if we all band together.”
“Every reporter I work with has encountered the same practice,” said another.
“Have any reporters talked about mutinying?” the reporter asked. “If you start fomenting an insurrection, keep me updated.”
The reporters said the Trump administration demanded quote approval “less frequently” and that the Biden administration’s restrictions are more reminiscent of the “tightly controlled Obama White House,” Politico reported.