Despite appearances, Today News Africa reporter Simon Ateba isn't the only member of the White House press corps who is frustrated with a lack of access to the Biden administration.
Colleagues scolded Ateba for derailing the White House press briefing on Monday with a rant about not being called on to ask questions. But just days earlier, the briefing room erupted with complaints about President Joe Biden's pattern of avoiding the news media.
The New York Post explained that Thursday's "reporter revolt" came amid "mounting tension with the White House press corps over a recent dearth of meaningful access." During Biden's first two years in office, he "has given about half as many press conferences as his recent predecessors." Biden also "lags in interviews," per the Post, having granted less than a quarter as many as Donald Trump did at the same point in his presidency.
While Biden has participated in 375 informal question-and-answer sessions—more than Trump, Obama, or Bush—"they often are extremely brief engagements that can feature as little as a single-word reply before the commander-in-chief walks away," the Post reported.
Nor was Ateba the first journalist to accuse White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre of stonewalling: "In her first 10 briefings as press secretary, Jean-Pierre said she didn’t have the information being sought 20-plus times more than predecessor Jen Psaki in her first 10 briefings, according to a review of the transcripts by West Wing Playbook" published last June.
"And while White House reporters love to complain about non-answers from communications officials, many have privately grumbled that when Jean-Pierre does have answers, they are often vague and rarely stray from the pre-written talking points prepared in the binder at the podium," the Politico newsletter reported.
Mark Halperin, a former ABC News political director who has covered six presidencies, wrote Saturday of the Post's reporting on Biden ducking the press: "Someday, this will be treated as the giant story it is by at least history, if not the Dominant Media."