A group of 68 journalists who cover the White House signed a letter to Joe Biden’s Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday calling for increased access to areas traditionally open to the media and other key events.
White House Correspondents’ Association President Steven Portnoy led the group that included several reporters from major news and television outlets.
The letter says that the administration’s process of allowing only limited numbers of reporters into events is “restrictive and antithetical to the concept of a free press.” It also complains that the restrictions have been put in place “without any transparent process into how reporters are selected.” The journalists said they are left to speculate about how the decisions are made and what criteria are used.
The group explained that having access to ask questions and have them answered is essential to personal interaction with Biden. They also say that being forced to fill out request forms in order to obtain access contradicts the president’s claims that he is a “defender of the First Amendment.”
The letter states that administration policies are leading to the belief many reporters have that the White House is seeking to limit access to the president by anyone outside of the pool or who might ask an inconvenient question.
The letter concludes by telling Jean-Pierre that the “administration’s continued efforts to limit access to the president cannot be defended.”
From the Trump administration back through modern history, presidents have allowed the press to have full access to locations throughout the White House where official events are held.
Journalists from liberal outlets including CNN, Salon, Politico, and CBS News joined in signing the letter.
Journalists have said that they have been given differing explanations of how access is granted. One who signed the letter was told by a White House official that a “number generator” was used to select reporters. Another was told that the size of a media outlet’s audience had an impact on access. Some organizations have reportedly gone for six months or more without being admitted to the White House.
Jean-Pierre said last month that she “actually” doesn’t know how the process of selecting media members for access to events works. She went on to claim that there was no “blacklisting” of specific reporters or organizations.