President Joe Biden’s White House Administration frequently requests to edit quotes from administration officials, according to a report by Politico who cited five journalists who cover the White House for outlets other than just Politico.
They said there is a “background with quote approval” process, whereby Biden’s communications team has the ability to vet quotes before they are published. In practice this process means that information gained from an interview with a Admin official can be used in a story, but in order for the person’s name to be attached to the quote, the reporter must send the a list of the quotes they want to use to the communications team who will then “approve, veto or edit them.”
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Whilst the previous Obama and Trump Administrations have also followed such a practice, the Biden Admin has used this process far more frequently to try and control the flow of information reaching the press, and therefore the public, allowing public officials to be obscure about their admissions and work. This tactic has of course caused great frustration among a growing group of reporters who see it as a violation against the freedom of the press. One reporter went as far as to say, “The rule treats them like coddled Capitol Hill pages and that’s not who they are or the protections they deserve.”
Another said that “Every reporter I work with has encountered the same practice.” According to Peter Baker who is the chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, these kind of rules began so that reports could have more transparency by asking officials to move quotes to being on the record, however “Instead of transparency, suddenly, the White House realized: ‘Hey, this quote approval thing is a cool thing. We can now control what is in their stories by refusing to allow them to use anything without our approvals. And it’s a pernicious, insidious, awful practice’,” said Baker.
When asked for a comment, Michael Gwin, a White House spokesperson, asked to go off the record. He later texted through a statement from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki which reads, “We would welcome any outlet banning the use of anonymous background quotes that attack people personally or speak to internal processes from people who don’t even work in the Administration,” she went on to say that “at the same time, we make policy experts available in a range of formats to ensure context and substantive detail is available for stories. If outlets are not comfortable with that attribution for those officials, they of course don’t need to utilize those voices.”
ARTICLE: NATHAN REID
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NEWSWEEK