White House

Australian Reporter ‘Startled’ by Biden Press Team’s Aggressive Aversion to Questions

President Joe Biden concludes his address to the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, September 21, 2021. (Eduardo Munoz/Pool/Reuters)

An Australian reporter covering President Biden’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday was “startled” by how aggressively the press pool was treated by the White House communications team.

The designated pooler, France24’s Washington correspondent Kethevane Gorjestani, reported that she “was asked by a very startled Australian reporter whether WH wranglers were always so strict about ushering the pool out without questions,” after a press conference held by Biden and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.

Biden and his press team have been criticized for a reclusive, question-averse approach. His first press conference as president did not come until March 25 — more than a month after both of his most recent predecessors.

The administration has opted for a particularly opaque approach in recent days as the crisis in Afghanistan rages on. Biden did not take questions from the press after major addresses on August 16, August 18, August 31, and September 9.

Moreover, the president has frequently remarked on his staff’s reluctance to see him speak aside from during prepared remarks.

“That is not something we recommend,” explained White House press secretary Jen Psaki during a podcast appearance, in reference to taking questions. “In fact, a lot of times we say `Don’t take questions,’” she added.

When Biden did take questions on Afghanistan on August 26, he preempted them by noting “they gave me a list here, the first person I was instructed to call on was Kelly O’Donnell, NBC.”

Gorjestani’s pool report was followed by a related incident in the Oval Office, in which British prime minister Boris Johnson was cut off by Biden aides shouting at reporters to leave the room and insisting that the president would not be taking questions. Johnson was answering a question at the time of the interruption.

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