White House press erupt in fight with each other over access after AP calls early end to briefing

Members of the press began a heated exchange amongst themselves after an Associated Press (AP) reporter called an end to the White House press briefing Monday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki had been fielding questions from members of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) for nearly 40 minutes when the AP’s Josh Boak made the determination that they had heard enough. Steven Nelson from the New York Post was the first to speak up when Boak called for an end.

In the audio file obtained by NewsBusters, Nelson is heard calling out, “You know, you don’t have to call the briefing over. We had questions back here. You don’t have to say thank you to call the briefing over.”

Saying “thank you” to end the White House briefing is an older tradition that granted the AP reporter the first question of the briefing and then the right to determine when the press had heard enough. It is a rare occurrence as reporters will typically try to get as many questions answered as possible.

In this case the issue had by reporters who spoke up pertained to the disproportionate allotment of questions answered from those in the front.

Kimberly Halkett from Al Jazeera said, “There are five rows back here. None of us were called on.”

“Five rows. Five rows,” Halkett repeated as Nelson suggested the decision to stop could be left up to Psaki when they had only been there for less than an hour.

Others shared the sentiment that it should be up to the White House officials to determine when the briefing needed to conclude and, when pressed on why he thought it was right to end the meeting, Boak can be heard replying, “Time flies.”

After his statement Boak left the remainder of the spate to be handled by WHCA President and CBS News Radio correspondent Steven Portnoy. Portnoy reminded the reporters of the tradition “for a senior wire reporter to conduct the briefing and end it when we feel we’ve had enough.”

This prompted Lynn Sweet from the Chicago Sun-Times to ask the pointed question, “Who is we?”

The consensus from the members in the back rows was that if the WHCA was going to make that call, the members in the front rows needed to comport themselves better and stop repeating questions that had already been asked, asking follow-up questions and taking opportunities to ask multiple questions.

Real Clear News reporter Philip Melanchthon Wegmann wondered what good could possibly come from this manner of ending the briefing other than harkening back to tradition.

Portnoy said the the decision to end the tradition would be a matter for the White House to decide which prompted Nelson to call him out as an operative for the administration, “you’re saying you were acting as an agent of Jen?”

The matter of deadlines and schedules was brought up, but the reporters from the back of the room would hear none of that as they pointed out those issues affected everyone. Breaking Points co-host Saagar Enjeti concluded by his assessment, that this was really about a select few reporters maintaining control over the “corridors of power.”

“This is an act of censorship in a dynamically changing media environment,” Enjeti wrote.”

Kevin Haggerty


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