Open Letter to the White House

Updated: Jul 6

Regarding Media Access to the Biden Administration




On April 8, I and a few other reporters forwarded to Press Secretary Jen Psaki a letter requesting better access to White House events.

Shortly thereafter Rose Garden events re-opened for the general press. But key events involving the president still remained locked behind a wall to which few in the press seemed to have the key. That facilitated another letter that I wrote, WHCA President Steve Portnoy edited and the New York Post's Steve Nelson helped circulate to our colleagues just prior to the 4th of July, 2022. (yes that was my intent.) Our first letter gathered fewer than 10 signatures, and alas I confess that's because I do not possess the "Whip" skills of Nelson who made sure he got it to as many reporters as possible. This time, as I write this, 69 reporters have signed on. Here's what was said and who signed it:



Dear Karine Jean-Pierre;



We once again respectfully request the Biden administration - without exception – re-open all of the traditional venues for presidential remarks at the White House, including the East Room and the South Court Auditorium, for any reporter admitted to the White House campus.


The current method of allowing a limited number of reporters into these events is not only restrictive and antithetical to the concept of a free press, but it has been done without any transparent process into how reporters are selected to cover these events. We are all left wondering who is making these decisions and what are the criteria on which they are based?


We appreciate that COVID-19 social distancing guidance played a role at first, but in the year and a half that Joe Biden has been president, and since such guidelines have been eased, we’ve never gotten an explanation as to why the areas that have traditionally been opened to all press remain restricted.


For any reporter not in the "pool" that covers the president, open press remarks represent the only time most of the reporters who cover the president might be positioned to ask him a question – or interact with him at all.


The continued inability of the White House to be candid and transparent about the selection process for reporters attending his remarks undermines President Biden’s credibility when he says he is a defender of the First Amendment.


The incongruity of these restrictions underscores the belief by many reporters that the administration seeks to limit access to the president by anyone outside of the pool, or anyone who might ask a question the administration doesn’t want to answer.


Let us be candid. Our job is not to be liked, nor is it to be concerned about whether or not you like what we ask. A reporter’s ability to question the most powerful man in our government shouldn't be discretionary. The administration's continued efforts to limit access to the president cannot be defended. Any notion that space is “limited” is not supported by the fact that every other president before Biden (including Trump) allowed full access to the very same spaces without making us fill out a request form prior to admittance.


Thank you for your attention to these ahistorical problems. We ask you to see to it that the protocols are changed back to the access norms of which we are accustomed.


Yours,


Brian Karem Steven Portnoy Steven Nelson Sam Donaldson

April Ryan Kimberly Halkett Kaitlan Collins Jacqui Heinrich

Debra Saunders Susan Crabtree John Bennett Christian Datoc

Shelby Talcott Katherine Doyle Haisten Willis James Rosen

Ebony McMorris Sara Cook Jake Turx Rob Crilly

Peter Baker Eugene Daniels Philip Wegmann Nikki Schwab

Zolan Kanno-Youngs Francesca Chambers Emily Goodin Katelyn Caralle

Geoff Earle Saagar Enjeti Jonathan Swan Nicholas Ballasy

Ken Thomas Andrew Feinberg David Smith Toby Capion

Owen Jensen Ksenija Pavlovic Olivia Nuzzi Yavuz Atalay

Doug Christian Bricio Segovia Jeff Mordock John Decker

Kevin Corke Alex Thompson Todd Gillman Alex Gangitano

Brian Bennett Maggie Haberman Linda Feldmann J.D. Durkin

Ed O’Keefe Laura Figueroa- Hernandez Lynn Sweet

Bryan Lowry Amber Athey John Gizzi George Condon

Ron Sachs Michael Wilner Alex Roarty Scott Bixby

Tom DeFrank Morgan Chalfant Jonathan Salant Maegan Vasquez