The atmosphere in the White House briefing room got heated Thursday afternoon as reporters challenged a spokesman over press access to the president, according to Politico.
After delivering a letter arguing that officials are “blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government,” members of the White House press corps cut into principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest as he defended the administration’s policies on press access.
“It is the responsibility of those of you who sit in your seats to push for more. You’re supposed to be agitating for more access. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be doing your job,” Earnest told reporters as he filled in for press secretary Jay Carney at the White House press briefing. “So, the fact that there is a little bit of a disagreement between the press corps and the White House Press Office about how much access the press corps should have to the president is built into the system.”
Earlier Thursday, the board of the White House Correspondents’ Association delivered a letter to Earnest detailing press concerns that the White House has engaged in a “troubling break from tradition” by choosing to release photos and videos of events to which the press has not had access, but to which White House photographers and videographers have had access.
Much of President Obama's daily schedule is not made public, though some of it later becomes public when the White House releases photos, videos or blog posts about the president's activities, something the White House argues has given Americans more access to Obama.
“What we have actually done is use a range of new technology to provide people greater access to the president,” Earnest argued, to the scoffs of some reporters.
The Radio TV Digital News Association (RTDNA) has joined with the White House Correspondents Association, other journalism groups and media outlets to protest White House coverage rules that ban photojournalists from covering the president at certain events while releasing government photos and videos of the same events.
“Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties,” the news organizations said in a letter to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “You are, in effect, replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases.”
The White House has argued that certain meetings and events with the president are private and not subject to media coverage. However, the groups point out that by distributing details and images from the events, the administration is attempting to make the meetings newsworthy on its own terms.