Psaki defends the White House’s ‘quote approval’ rules as reporters grow frustrated

jen psaki
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki listens during a daily press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on March 11, 2021.

  • Reporters covering the Biden administration are frustrated with the White House’s “quote approval” rules.
  • The rule means that a quote from an administration official included in a story must be approved by the White House.
  • “The rule treats them like coddled Capitol Hill pages,” one reporter told Politico.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Reporters covering the Biden administration are growing “increasingly frustrated” with the White House’s demands to approve quotes in their stories, according to a Politico report on Tuesday.

Under President Joe Biden, the White House communications team has often conducted interviews between administration officials and the media on “background with quote approval,” Politico reported. That means that any quote from an administration official included in a story must first be sent to the communications team for approval before publishing. The rule allows the White House to wield greater control over media coverage.

While prior administrations have also implemented the practice, including former presidents Donald Trump’s and Barack Obama’s, some reporters told Politico that Biden’s team is abusing it.

“The rule treats them like coddled Capitol Hill pages and that’s not who they are or the protections they deserve,” one reporter told the outlet.

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

Reporters are usually unwilling to push back on or reject interviews from the White House, considering the competitive nature of the industry. One reporter told Politico: “If you start fomenting an insurrection, keep me updated.”

The White House did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Politico that the communications team “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.”

“At the same time, we make policy experts available in a range of formats to ensure context and substantive detail is available for stories,” she added. “If outlets are not comfortable with that attribution for those officials they of course don’t need to utilize those voices.”

Since he took office, Biden has tried to restore a cohesive communications strategy to the White House, speaking occasionally to the media, offering regular press briefings with Psaki, and tweeting general updates on his administration’s work. Biden’s approach largely differs from that of Trump’s, who often operated as the sole spokesman of his administration.

Psaki said last week in a CNN interview that she does not appreciate Biden’s interactions with the media during public events, such as answering questions from reporters once he wraps up a speech.

“That is not something we recommend,” Psaki said. “In fact, a lot of times we say ‘Don’t take questions,’ you know, but he’s going to do what he wants to do because he’s the president.”

“We’re never going to satisfy the White House press corps and their desires for access,” she continued. “And I think there have been mistakes made in the past of trying to do that.”

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