May 11, 2021

BIDEN VOTERS POSTING THEIR L’S ONLINE: Reporters fume at White House ‘quote approval’ rules.

The practice allows the White House an extra measure of control as it tries to craft press coverage. At its best, quote approval allows sources to speak more candidly about their work. At its worst, it gives public officials a way to obfuscate or screen their own admissions and words.

The Biden White House isn’t the first to employ the practice. Many reporters say it’s reminiscent of the tightly controlled Obama White House. The Trump White House used it, too.

But reporters say Trump’s team did so less frequently than Biden’s team — which also used the tactic during the campaign — and a number of current White House reporters have become increasingly frustrated by what they see as its abuse. “The rule treats them like coddled Capitol Hill pages and that’s not who they are or the protections they deserve,” said one reporter.

“Every reporter I work with has encountered the same practice,” said another.

But, as is often the case with the unwieldy White House press corps, there is a collective action problem. Reporters are reluctant to say no to using background with quote approval because it could put them at a disadvantage with their competitors. “The only way the press has the power to push back against this is if we all band together,” said the first reporter. At least one White House reporting team has been talking internally about reaching out to other outlets to push the Biden team to stop the practice.

“Have any reporters talked about mutinying?” the second reporter asked us. “If you start fomenting an insurrection, keep me updated.”

Reached for comment, White House spokesperson MICHAEL GWIN asked to go off the record.

Gwin later texted a statement from press secretary JEN PSAKI. “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 said. “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.”

Related: WH Press Secretary Jen Psaki Wishes Biden Maybe Didn’t Talk So Much.

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