The increasingly contentious relationship between the Biden administration and the press hit a new low recently when journalists were barred from listening in and reporting on the President’s COVID strategy Q&A with state governors.
This all happened on Monday, Dec. 27, after Biden took calls from governors to discuss ongoing efforts to combat rising COVID-19 cases due to the new omicron variant. After speaking with the governors, Biden addressed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients as to whether the governors had questions.
“I want to thank the governors for their partnership, and I mean that sincerely. With that, I will turn it back over to Jeff, and I understand you guys might have some questions. Jeff?” Biden asked.
Zients then responded, “Good. I think we are going to clear the press first,” unceremoniously ushering the press pool out of the room.
Biden has frequently faced criticism for his response to the press. In several instances when he has not avoided reporter questions, he has implied that “handlers” determine when and who to call on during press events – and even decide what the President can and cannot speak about at press events.
Zients’ instruction to clear the press adds to the long line of officials who have appeared to limit Biden’s exposure to the media.
Biden was later confronted by the press before leaving the White House on the claim that his administration rejected a plan by experts to boost holiday COVID testing rates. He responded, “We didn’t reject it,” in defiance of comments made during the governor conference.
“It is not enough. It’s clearly not enough. If I had – we – had known, we would have gone harder, quicker, if we could have,” Biden said previously.
During the conference with the governors, Biden spoke with a few GOP politicians who cautioned him against using federal solutions for state problems. Biden then agreed that there is “no federal solution” to the pandemic.
“There is no federal solution. This gets solved at the state level,” Biden responded.
This statement seemed rather hypocritical by the President since it was then-candidate Biden who said that he would “shut down the virus.”
Upon hearing this statement, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., accused Biden of trying to escape blame for his administration’s failures.
“When Joe Biden says ‘there is no federal solution,’ he’s trying to avoid blame for his incompetence,” Cotton tweeted. “If he really believes this, he should rescind his unconstitutional federal mandates.”