"What a hacky load of crap," said several Wonkette staffers to each other in unisonal three-part harmony in the Wonkette secret chatcave a little while ago. It was weird. We don't usually break into song like that.

We had all recently read a hacky load of crap from The Daily Beast about how (HORRORS!) White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and her staff sometimes reach out to reporters to find out what they might want to ask about in the daily press briefing. (Which exists again!) How dare she, the article seemed to ask with a straight face, as if this were debate prep and Psaki was trying to cheat on the final exam.

According to three sources with knowledge of the matter, as well as written communications reviewed by The Daily Beast, the new president's communications staff have already on occasion probed reporters to see what questions they plan on asking new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when called upon during briefings.

Wow. She is PROBING reporters? Sounds invasive!

One reporter raised the issue during an informal White House Correspondents Association Zoom call last Friday. According to multiple sources, leaders at the meeting advised print reporters to push back against requests by the White House press team to learn of questions in advance, or simply to not respond to the Biden team's inquiries.

"While it's a relief to see briefings return, particularly with a commitment to factual information, the press can't really do its job in the briefing room if the White House is picking and choosing the questions they want," one White House correspondent said. "That's not really a free press at all."

We agree! If Psaki is finding out all the questions in advance, so she can choose easy ones while intentionally avoiding hard questions like "wHaR hUnTeR bIdEn's laPtOP?" then that is not a free press at all!

Let's see if the Beast has more support for its allegation of Psaki-an Press Tyranny, or if it debunks its own headline, haha, it is the second thing:

Psaki has pleased many members of the press pool by ensuring that the reporters in attendance aren't doing so in vain. In each of the early press conferences, she's fielded questions from every reporter in the room.

Either she's picking and choosing the questions she wants or she's calling on every single reporter in the room. Both of these things cannot be true, unless the Beast forgot to mention how if a reporter has a question Psaki does not want to answer, she has that reporter disappeared to Gitmo.

If you missed the latest episode of literally every TV show that's ever featured a fictionalized White House press secretary, this might be news to you, but on those shows you often see reporters following press secretaries around all day, asking for comments, looking for scoops, just generally bothering them. Not everything about those shows is real — for instance, the West Wing is usually portrayed as a spacious place, when it's more like Derek Zoolander's school for ants — but that's real. And that's how it's supposed to be.

It's literally the press secretary's job to have their finger on the pulse of what reporters want to talk about, what stories they're following. It's not a pop quiz, a-holes.

A Biden White House comms spokesperson told the Daily Beast just that, and so did Eric Schultz, former deputy press secretary for Obama:

"This is textbook communications work. The briefing becomes meaningless if the press secretary has to repeatedly punt questions, instead of coming equipped to discuss what journalists are reporting on," he said. "In a non-covid environment, this would happen in casual conversations throughout the day in lower and upper press. One of the few upsides to reporters hovering over your desk all day, is that you get a very quick sense of what they're working on."

Did you people even watch CJ Cregg?

The Beast article came out in the same news cycle as Sean Hannity bellyaching that Psaki had confused the everloving shit out of Sean Hannity MILLIONS OF AMERICANS, by saying several times that she would "circle back" on a question, like a common press secretary who wants to make sure she delivers correct information to reporters, and thus, the American people. This seems like part of the same story.

The Beast allows that this practice is not "unheard of," then proceeds to cite as examples Sarah Huckabee Sanders and also White House comms staffers in the Obama and Bush administrations. In other words, all American presidential administrations going back for two solid decades, including even sometimes the weirdass hellmouth administration we just escaped.

Tara Palmeri from the Politico Playbook tweeted the Daily Beast story with a "!!" as if it contained some "!!" news. When people started to push back, she explained:

Except for the part about how the Beast article debunks itself by saying Psaki calls on literally every reporter in the room, that's a perfect response.

Keith Olbermann pointed that out, and Jon Favreau, who worked inside the White House as a speechwriter and now works outside as a Pod that Saves America, pointed it out. Everybody pointed it out. In response, Palmeri doubled down.



Maybe the scarring of the Trump years is still too fresh, and maybe some White House reporters are just so beaten down by four solid years of Sean Spicer, Kayleigh McEnany, and Shuckabee The Clown lying and abusing them and calling them enemies of the people that none of us is exactly ready for "normal" yet. We get that, and we want to charitably contextualize this as such.

But like we said, this is some hacky shit. If Psaki really does start refusing to call on reporters who ask tough questions, please for the love of God tell us. But two weeks into the Biden administration this comes off as just a lame attempt at both-sides-ism, a controversy in search of a crisis, and oh yeah did we mention how the Daily Beast article debunks itself? It debunks itself.

We are 100 percent certain Psaki and the Biden comms team will not be perfect at their jobs. But at least so far, it certainly looks like they are trying to do better than the previous shitshow. Sounds like some Daily Beast and Politico folks might should take the same cue.


[Daily Beast]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the managing editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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