The White House briefing room holds 49 seats, all assigned to different news agencies that cover the president.
But with COVID-19, that number was cut in half so reporters can socially distance. Because some reporters who would normally be in the briefing room are excluded, a “pool” reporter who covers events at the White House and files reports with other journalists will often solicit questions from those not in the room.
That has led to some problems, according to a new report.
“Four times in recent weeks, members of the White House press corps have relayed questions to press secretary Jen Psaki from someone claiming to be a fellow reporter who was not able to be there in the room due to Covid protocols,” POLITICO reported. “That colleague, who goes by the name Kacey Montagu, doesn’t exist — at least not as an actual reporter.”
Montagu spent quite a while establishing the identity of a White House correspondent, saying she worked for White House News, or WHN. She started two Twitter accounts, which “are followed by some top White House officials and journalists,” Politico reported. “Montagu has filed Freedom of Information Act requests and obtained Psaki’s personal financial disclosure form, along with the disclosure of at least one other official, the president’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.”
According to POLITICO, Montagu’s online acquaintances believe Montagu began impersonating a journalist “to boast about in the online global gaming platform called ROBLOX, where users jokingly call themselves ‘Legos.'” Montagu also reportedly operated at least two Twitter accounts, including one account that contained the middle name “Lego,” the avatar of a YouTube star, and a header photo featuring the late Prince Phillip.
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In communications with confidants, Montagu has posed as a member of White House Correspondents Association, claiming to be a reporter for The Daily Mail, the British tabloid known for its gossipy coverage of celebrities and political figures. Montagu also communicates regularly with top White House reporters and has had several exchanges with White House officials.
But Montagu never joined WHCA and The Daily Mail. There is no Kacey Montagu, except as a digital impersonation of a White House correspondent.
“I love journalism, and I think the Press Corps is doing a pretty bad job at the moment, so I decided I would ensure some transparency and ask some questions me and some friends wanted the answer to,” Montagu said, when reached by email and asked why they were posing as a White House reporter.
Montagu regularly sent in questions for the White House pool reporter to ask Psaki, saying she couldn’t be in the briefing room “due to social distancing regulations.” Montagu was able to persuade White House reporters, including from The Cleveland Plain Dealer and CQ Roll Call, to ask the press secretary several questions “about everything from COVID-19 travel bans, to coming ambassadorships, to Biden’s reaction to Microsoft being hacked.”
“In at least one instance, a White House official was connected with Montagu to circle back with more information when they had it,” Politico reported.
“Montagu has emailed questions to press aides for President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. They have taken to emailing new White House press aides with congratulatory notes after they landed positions, or remarking on how cool their roles must be,” the website said.
This article has been updated to include additional information and revised for clarity.