September 21, 2023

VIDEO: Correspondents revolt at Biden-Harris White House over marginalization during press briefings with Jen Psaki

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters, Monday, September 20, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Hannah Foslien)
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters, Monday, September 20, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Hannah Foslien)

For millions of Americans watching White House press briefings from the comfort of their homes, everything seems normal. For majority of reporters in the James S. Brady press briefing room, however, it’s a place where marginalization is the rule, not the exception, with majority of the questions going to the same reporters and news outlets while others are ignored for weeks and months.

On Monday, pent-up anger and frustration reached a crescendo when an Associated Press reporter Josh Boak signaled White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to end the briefing before others had a chance to ask a question.

Boak thanked Psaki 39 minutes into the question and answer session, signaling that time was up for the briefing, even as other reporters shouted questions from across the room.

New York Post White House Correspondent Steven Nelson was not buying it, and immediately confronted Boak. “You know, you don’t have to call the briefing over,” Nelson said from the fourth row. “We have questions back here.”

Nelson asked Boak to provide an explanation. “Can we have an explanation? he asked. “Let her call the briefing if it’s 40 minutes in.”

“There are five rows back here and none of us got to ask a question,” added Al Jazeera White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett.

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times also joined the wild debate. “Why did you call it?” she asked. “Why did you do it?”

White House tradition indicates that a senior wire reporter such as Boak would usually call an end to the press briefing as opposed to press secretary, Fox News reported. However, many reporters have argued that the press briefing would usually be called on behalf of the press after most questions were asked, and not before.

Three reporters in the first two rows asked multiple questions and follow-ups, taking up much of the time in the 39-minute briefing on Monday.

Former chaplain and White House Correspondent for the InterMountain Christian News, Matthew Anthony Harper, suggested that every media outlet limit their questions to one.

James Rosen, Chief White House Correspondent for Newsmax wondered why not just “kill out the back three rows” since reporters sitting there rarely get called on.

“Really they ought to just kill out the back three rows, because they’re not going to get called on, and make things a little more spacious like the State Department briefing room, because why bother cramming us all in here to serve as potted plants?” Rosen said.

As the debate raged on, frustrated Boak asked reporters who wanted “to yell” at him to meet him in the Associated Press booth. “Look, if you want to yell at me, I’m in the booth. You can do that there,” Boak said.

CBS News Radio White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy who is also the president of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) tried to calm things down.

Portnoy explained that Boak was following the tradition that a senior wire reporter can end the briefing “when we feel we’ve had enough.” “Clearly, we have felt that we have not had enough,” Portnoy added.


While the same reporters get most of the questions all the time, there are many others who are rarely called on to ask questions.

Austin Mona of The Slice News noted on Monday that although she has been covering the White House for many years, many people do not know her name because she is rarely called on to ask her questions about burning issues her audience cares about.

That open marginalization has triggered anger and frustration that led to the squabble at Monday’s press briefing.

Jen Psaki addresses reporters’ frustration, takes questions across the room

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged reporters’ frustration and took questions from across the room, starting from the middle rows instead of the first as she done for the past one year.

(NOTE From Today News Africa: Today News Africa White House Correspondent Simon Ateba, who wrote this article, has also faced marginalization in the briefing room and during the wild debate on Monday, Mr. Ateba clarified that it has never been his intention to shout questions during the briefing but is often left with no other options.)

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