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Monday, March 1, 2021
MRC Pushed The Lie That Psaki Wanted Questions In Advance
Topic: Media Research Center

Media Research Center executive Tim Graham presumably chortled heartily to hgimself as he wrote this Feb. 1 item:

Daily Beast media reporter Maxwell Tani is reporting that anonymous White House reporters are tattling on Jen Psaki's press team, that they have already probed reporters to find out what questions they plan on asking Psaki during the daily briefings. Some of these reporters don't like an idea forming that they're coordinating their questions and coverage with the Democratic staff. 

The Biden White House did not deny this report, but the White House says "it has tried to foster a better relationship with the press corps than the previous administration, and has tried to reach out to reporters directly in order to avoid appearing to dodge questions during briefings."

You can see Psaki wanting to cut down on the "circle back" answers, but this kind of snooping can also affect which reporters are called on, and who might be skipped, or delayed until the end, when cable news might move on from live coverage.

each other as anonymous sources, so they can keep the White House from learning who's tattling on them. Journalists love to preach the need for transparency, and routinely avoid it with their sourcing.

Just one problem: It's not true, at least in the way Graham wants you to think it is. As Matthew Yglesias pointed out, well down in the Daily Beast article is a segment that discredits the entire premise:

Under previous administrations, many White House reporters would meet informally in the morning for gaggles with the press secretaries. During these interactions, White House communications staff could get a sense of the topics reporters were interested in that day, and would come prepared for questions during televised briefings later in the afternoon.

Eric Schultz, a former deputy press secretary in the Obama White House, said that the new comms team was restoring normalcy to the briefing process. Finding out what reporters are focusing on, he said, was standard procedure in most pre-Trump White Houses in order to reduce the number of questions that go unanswered during televised briefings.

“This is textbook communications work. The briefing becomes meaningless if the press secretary has to repeatedly punt questions, instead of coming equipped to discuss what journalists are reporting on,” he said. “In a non-covid environment, this would happen in casual conversations throughout the day in lower and upper press. One of the few upsides to reporters hovering over your desk all day, is that you get a very quick sense of what they’re working on.”

In other words: Psaki's comms shop is simply re-establishing what the White House press office did before Trump. Other reporters have also confirmed that Psaki was returning to a pre-Trump norm that nobody objected to. Graham isn't going to tell you that, though.

Nevertheless, Kristine Marsh kept the bogus narrative going in a Feb. 3 post, complaining that "The View’sliberal hosts weren’t only bored by the Daily Beast report that the White House press office was already asking reporters to feed them the questions before press briefings; in fact, they rationalized and defended it." She then laughably referred to 'the alarming behavior from the Biden administration," censoring the fact that this behavior occured and was accepted under many previous presidential administrations.

Meanwhile, Curtis Houck dishonestly complained in his daily press briefing writeup on Feb. 2 that "not a single reporter stepped up to ask Psaki about the embarrassing Daily Beast report that her team had been probing reporters to pre-screen their questions ahead of briefings. Talk about a case of collusion." Houck repeated the claim the next day.

Over at the MRC's more extreme MRCTV operation, Sergie Daez huffed: "Jen Psaki is off to a poor start as White House press secretary. Even though she’s been positively pampered by the leftist media, Psaki can’t seem to give direct answers to reporters in White House press briefings, constantly saying that she’ll 'circle back' instead. Now, it looks like the direct answers she is able to give can't come without rehearsal."

Daez cited a Fox News report as the basis for the post, which censored the fact that Psaki was returning to a pre-Trump practice.

In short: The MRC got days of content from spreading a lie. Don't expect Graham and Co. to apologize.


Posted by Terry K. at 9:31 PM EST
Updated: Monday, March 1, 2021 9:43 PM EST

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