Commentary By C. Douglas Golden September 28, 2021 at 8:54am
On Jan. 24, just days after President Joe Biden took office, official CNN Democrat brown-noser Brian Stelter shared a chyron from his television show on Twitter.
“Psaki Promises to Share ‘Accurate Info’ (How Refreshing),” it read. The insinuation, of course, is that there wasn’t any accurate info from the Trump administration — but don’t worry, help was on the way!
Now, as it turns out, there’s a caveat to that refreshing promise: Psaki will be sharing “accurate info” (if often incomplete or misleading), but if President Joe Biden is going to be sharing information, your questions had better be “on point.” If they’re on a topic he doesn’t like, he’s not going to answer. (Psaki herself will probably promise to “circle back” to whatever the question was at a later date.)
On Friday, Biden met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Before their meeting, however, the president badmouthed the U.S. media and counseled Modi not to take any questions.
“The Indian press is much better behaved than the American press,” Biden told Modi. “I think, with your permission, you could not answer questions because they won’t ask any questions on point.”
That didn’t seem quite so refreshing, particularly after an incident with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier in the week when Biden’s staff shooed away reporters in the Oval Office.
Psaki was called on the carpet by the Washington press corps on Monday, given that reporters weren’t happy at the president telling the Indian prime minister to avoid taking questions. The White House press secretary tried to recontextualize — and made the problem worse in the process.
“I think what he said is that they’re not always on point,” Psaki said.
“Now I know that isn’t something that anyone wants to hear in here, but what I think he was conveying is, today he might want to talk about COVID vaccines, some of the questions were about that,” she continued.
“Some of the questions are not always about the topic he’s talking about in that day. I don’t think it was meant to be a hard cut at the members of the media, people he’s taken questions from today and on Friday as well,” she added.
Another reporter — CBS News Radio’s Steven Portnoy — followed up, saying, “It happened that he was sitting next to prime minister of India, the world’s largest democracy, when he said that. It also followed the incident on Wednesday when he was sitting next to the prime minister of Great Britain. Is the president reticent to take questions when he’s sitting next to a foreign leader in the Oval Office? Can we expect him to do that in the future?”
“Steve, he took questions earlier that day on Friday. He’d already taken questions that day. I think that was the context of his comments,” Psaki said. “And he’s taken questions standing next to a foreign leader many, many times in the past, and will continue to.”
There was also one other problem with Biden’s remark, as Fox’s Jacqui Heinrich noted.
“The president said that the Indian press was better behaved than the U.S. press, but the Indian press is ranked 142nd in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders, for press freedoms,” she asked.
“How does he say that about the U.S. press compared to the Indian press?” she asked.
“Well, I would just say to you that, having now worked for the president, serving in this role for nine months, having seen that he’s taken questions from the press more than 140 times, including today and Friday, that he certainly respects the role of the press, the role of the freedom of free press,” Psaki said.
“We ensure that we have press with us, of course, when we travel, that we have press with us for sprays in foreign capitals, and we will continue to. I think that should speak to his commitment to freedom of press around the world.”
It’s worth noting that Psaki had all weekend to work on her answer to this. She knew full well this was going to be one of the things she had to answer when she walked into the Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing of the White House. The best the press secretary and her team could come up with: You guys need to start asking the kinds of questions the president wants to hear. Talk about what he’s talking about. See, this is why he never takes questions from the press. Focus, people!
It was an embarrassment — to Psaki and the president. And even the shamelessly pro-Biden press corps had to know it.
For whatever reason, Brian Stelter hasn’t weighed in on how refreshing that answer was. Perhaps he missed it.
C. Douglas Golden, Contributor
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he’s written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.