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White House COVID coordinator Jeff Zients kicked reporters out of the room Monday before allowing President Joe Biden to take questions from state governors on a call to discuss the federal government’s strategy to handle the latest COVID surge.
WH Covid coordinator Jeff Zients boots press pool before we could hear Biden take questions from governors on Covid…
Biden: “I understand you guys may have some questions. Jeff?”
Zients: “I think we’re going to clear the press first.” pic.twitter.com/uwZ6xEmS4H
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) December 27, 2021
“I want to thank the governors for their partnership, I mean that sincerely,” Biden said as he wrapped up the call. “And with that, I’m going to turn it back over to Jeff and I understand you guys may have some questions.”
Biden then turned and looked at Zients, who was off-camera, and prompted, “Jeff?”
“Good,” Zients replied, pausing for several seconds before adding, “I think we’re going to … clear the press first.”
Awash in complaints from members of the White House press corps about the administration’s apparent reluctance to allow President Biden to take direct questions, press secretary Jen Psaki has been forced to play defense on the subject — and has claimed numerous times that Biden does take questions all the time.
Just weeks into Biden’s presidency, Psaki faced questions about why he had not yet taken a formal press conference. She replied that Biden “takes questions several times a week” and planned to schedule a press conference soon.
Asked why Pres. Biden hasn’t given a press conference yet, White House press sec. Jen Psaki says he “takes questions several times a week,” and that a press conference will be scheduled “before the end of the month.” https://t.co/8XnvAX6DPE pic.twitter.com/uNqeGFTrq3
— ABC News (@ABC) March 5, 2021
Psaki gave the same answer to CNN’s Brian Stelter three months later when he asked why Biden hadn’t held more than one formal press conference. “He takes questions several times a week,” she said. She also claimed during that interview that Biden had taken questions from the press on 77 of his first 100 days in office.
When asked by @brianstelter why President Biden hasn’t held more than one formal press conference, White House Press Sec. Jen Psaki says “he takes questions several times a week.” https://t.co/bttmLjiHOk pic.twitter.com/2ODlTR7WI8
— Reliable Sources (@ReliableSources) June 6, 2021
In September, during a meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Johnson took several questions from the press — but as soon as a question was directed at Biden, White House staffers cleared the room. The White House later claimed that Johnson had not been expected to take questions. The press pool filed a formal complaint, requesting a press conference with the president. Psaki responded by saying that Biden took questions “several times a week.”
The WH pool filed a complaint as a result of this and asked Psaki for a formal press conference with Biden.
Psaki said that Biden takes questions several times a week. pic.twitter.com/1XJ4089WIC
— The First (@TheFirstonTV) September 21, 2021
Psaki repeated the claim in a Zoom call with Politico, saying, “I think the important thing for people to understand, Anita, is that at a press conference you take ten, maybe fifteen questions. He probably takes, I mean, I’d have to look at it, but — 20-30 questions a week.”
Jen Psaki claims Biden takes “20-30 questions a week.”
Last week, Biden took seven. pic.twitter.com/ZNAHV56OvA
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) November 18, 2021
Psaki made the claim again just before Christmas, telling reporters that Biden took questions “multiple times a week.”
Jen Psaki claims President Biden takes questions from the press multiple times a week…
Ummm, in what universe?
— TheBlaze (@theblaze) December 21, 2021