Washington Post bureau chief slams Biden for shutting down questions

The Washington Post turns on Biden: White House bureau chief slams Biden for shutting down questions from reporters and praises Boris Johnson for his ‘respect for a free press’

  • President Joe Biden did not call on any American reporter during his Oval Office meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
  • Johnson called on three British reporters to ask questions 
  • As reporters were ushered from room, Biden was asked about images of migrants at border being whipped
  • ‘Violence is not justified,’ Biden appeared to say but the rest of his response was not decipherable as his aides shouted down reporters and ushered them out  
  • In the Oval Office sit down, Johnson took control of the meeting, calling on British reporters for questions that he and Biden answered
  • No American reporters were called upon during exchange
  • Reporters complained to White House press secretary Jen Psaki 
  • Washington Post White House bureau chief Ashley Parker said it was Johnson ‘NOT’ Biden ‘who spotlighted a key tenet of a flourishing democracy’ 
  • It was Johnson’s first trip to the White House, a visit he never made during former President Donald Trump’s tenure  

The Washington Post’s White House bureau chief Ashley Parker is the latest journalist to slam the Biden administration for shutting down questions from American reporters during the president’s meeting Tuesday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

‘Worth noting that Biden ran for office promising to restore democracy after 4 years of Trump. But today it was the British leader, NOT the American one, who spotlighted a key tenet of a flourishing democracy – respect for a free press – by taking questions from his press corps,’ Parker tweeted Tuesday night. 

Biden did not recognize any American reporters for questions during an Oval Office meeting with Johnson – and his aides cleared out journalists as they tried to query the president.

President Biden’s answer to a question about the situation on the border couldn’t be heard as his staff shouted over him 

The Washington Post’s White House bureau chief Ashley Parker was critical of Biden in a Tuesday night tweet

Biden did attempt to answer one shouted question from a CBS reporter about the crisis on the Southern border but his answer was unclear when White House staff shouted down reporters, covering the president’s attempt to respond as they demanded journalists leave.

‘Violence is not justified,’ Biden appeared to say but the rest of his response was not decipherable. 

White House staff even interrupted Johnson as they pushed to get reporters out of the room, shouting over the British prime minister as he and Biden sat in their chairs, watching the chaotic scene unfold as aides ushered journalists out of the Oval Office.

As reporters were ushered out, CBS White House reporter Ed O’Keefe shouted a question to Biden asked about the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration is facing backlash and criticism following images of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback using whips to round up migrants or prevent them from stepping onto American soil.

But White House aides yelled ‘thank you’ and ‘let’s go’ to the press in the room, herding them out as Biden appeared to try and address the issue. Between the shouting of his aides and the president’s wearing a face mask, it was impossible to make out the majority of what Biden said. 

The president seemed to know what he and the prime minister where in for when he wished Johnson ‘good luck’ after the prime minister said the two leaders would take a few questions.

‘I think we will take a couple of questions, just a couple of people,’ Johnson said.

‘Good luck,’ Biden responded.  

Johnson then took control, calling on three British reporters for questions that he and Biden answered. The president did not call on a single reporter. 

With no American reporter called upon and, as White House staff said it was time to go, the U.S. journalists started shouting questions at Biden and Johnson. 

That is when aides shouted them down.

‘I think that’s it,’ Johnson quipped as the aides shouted at reporters and journalists shouted questions.  

After reporters were pulled from the Oval Office, a group of American reporters making up the ‘pool’ – the small group of journalists that follow the president to represent the entire press crops –  went into White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s office to give her a formal complaint about the situation.

‘The entire editorial component of the US pool went immediately into Jen Psaki’s office to register a formal complaint that no American reporters were recognized for questions in the president’s Oval Office,’ noted CBS radio correspondent Steve Portnoy in his report. Portnoy is also president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. ‘And that wranglers loudly shouted over the president as he seemed to give an answer to Ed O’Keefe’s question about the situation at the Southern Border. Biden’s answer could not be heard over the shouting.’

‘Psaki was unaware that the incident has occurred and suggested that she was not  in a position to offer an immediate solution,’ Portnoy’s report continued. ‘Your pooler requested a press conference.’ 

‘Psaki suggested the president takes questions several times a week,’ Portnoy said.

During Trump’s tenure, aides would similarly yell at press to exit the Oval Office, but the former president was more likely to answer questions in other venues – including when he would leave the White House for trips, referred to so-called ‘chopper talk,’ as Marine One would be parked on the South Lawn, waiting for him to depart.

Trump also previously held a press conference tied to the United Nations General Assembly, which is happening both in-person and virtually this week. 

Biden spoke before the body in New York Tuesday before returning to Washington for his meeting with Johnson.

President Joe Biden holds a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the Oval Office at the White House

President Biden had a notecard in hand – as he usually does for meetings – that he referred to during his remarks with Johnson

Press are seen gathered in the Oval Office as Biden and Boris Johnson hold a meeting

A close up of the notecard Biden used in his meeting with PM Johnson

At the beginning of their meeting, Biden and Johnson exchanged pleasantries and joked about their shared love of trains. 

The prime minister took the Amtrak train down from New York City, where he was at the annual UN General Assembly meeting, to meet with Biden at the White House. 

‘They love you,’ Johnson told Biden of Amtrak. ‘You are a living deity on Amtrak, I can tell you.’

The president bragged how he had ridden over 2 million miles on the nation’s train system.

‘Well, they should. I’ve traveled more on Amtrak,’ he said. ‘If I were conductor I’d be number one in seniority.’

Johnson thanked Biden for hosting his first White House meeting. The two men were both in New York on Tuesday for the UN meeting but each traveled separately to Washington so they could meet at the White House.

‘I want to thank you very much for today. It’s great to be with you,’ Johnson said. ‘And This is a very important trip for us in the UK and we’ve seen some great progress just in the last period.’

He thanked Biden for lifting the ban on British beef in the U.S. and for easing the travel ban, allowing those fully vaccinated to travel between the U.S. and UK. 

Biden had a notecard in hand – as he usually does for meetings – that he referred to during his remarks with Johnson. 

Johnson then called on a few British reporters to ask questions. 

The two leaders were quizzed on the Harry Dunn case, possible trade deals and the Irish protocols. 

Reporters when then escorted out as the American press shouted questions to Biden about the latest crisis at the border and the situation with the French. 

Biden reassured Johnson that the case of Harry Dunn, who died in a road crash involving U.S. diplomat Anne Sacoolas, is ‘being worked on’ even as no details were released.

But there seemed little prospect of Johnson get his wish for a trade deal. 

 ‘We are going to talk about trade a little bit today and we’re going to have to work that through,’ Biden cautioned. 

Johnson, in the wake of Brexit, wants a free trade deal.

Immigrants at the Rio Grande river on the U.S.-Mexico border

CBP Office of Professional Responsibility is launching a probe into Border Patrol agents using what appears to be a whip or lasso while trying to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson enters the West Wing of the White House

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took control of the Oval Office meeting with President Biden, calling on British reporters for questions

Johnson was at the White House for his first in-person meeting as prime minister. He first met with Vice President Kamala Harris before he joined Biden in the Oval Office. 

‘It’s a great honor and privilege for me to be here to meet you for the first time. I’ve heard a lot about you but it’s fantastic to be here,’ Johnson told Harris at their meeting.

He praised the new announcement on climate funding from the United States, which Biden announced during his speech at the UN General Assembly. Biden said he’d ask Congress to double the amount of money for public climate financing – to about $11 billion a year.

‘I just want to say, Madame Vice President, Kamala, on climate change I think that today was a really good day for the world. And I thank the U.S. government and President Biden for the steps you’ve taken to reassure the world that America is committed to helping to tackle climate change,’ Johnson said. 

Harris welcomed the prime minister, talking about the ‘shared priorities’ of the two countries – including the COVID pandemic and climate change.

‘And of course we must work and continue to work together to uphold and protect democratic principles and values around the globe. And we look forward to that continuing relationship, and our relationship as partners,’ she said. 

Johnson also praised the U.S. easing its travel ban, allowing fully vaccinated people from the UK to come visit the United States.  

He and Harris met in the vice president’s ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, across the driveway from the White House. 

After their remarks, Johnson and Harris walked outside to the balcony overlooking the West Wing of the White House. They posed for photos and waved to journalists below.

Johnson and Biden took separate trips from New York to Washington on Tuesday to meet at the White House amid rising tensions with the French.

The two leaders were in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting but didn’t meet face to face there. Instead their sit down on Tuesday evening will be in the Oval Office of the White House, a symbol of power and more recognizable backdrop. 

It’s Johnson’s first trip to the White House, a visit he never made during Donald Trump’s presidency, partially due to the COVID pandemic. 

The British prime minister took the train from New York City to Washington D.C. a move the president – who earned the nickname ‘Amtrak Joe’ when he commuted daily from Wilmington, Del., to the nation’s Capitol as a senator – appreciated. Biden on Tuesday took Air Force One back to Washington.  

The two men previously met in person in June at the G7 meeting in Cornwall. 

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Vice President Kamala Harris wave from a balcony of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with Vice President Kamala Harris in her ceremonial office across the drive way from the White House

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at White House to meet Vice President Kamala at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building ahead of his meeting with President Biden

Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes a train from Penn Station in New York to Washington DC for his meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with aide David Blair (left), prepares for the meeting during the train ride

Boris Johnson  in New York City’s Penn Station, preparing to board his Amtrak train

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrive in Washington DC – it’s Johnson’s first White House meeting as prime minister

Prime Minister Johnson boarding the train

Joe Biden will sit down with Johnson in the Oval Office amid tensions with France over new AUKUS alliance – Biden flew from New York to DC on Air Force One

Johnson gushed over Biden in an interview with NBC’s Today Show, which aired Tuesday morning ahead of their meeting.

‘What I will say about Joe Biden and dealing with the new American president, yes, it is a breath of fresh air in the sense of the some things on which we can really really work together, and you knew I was gonna bring it up — climate change — he’s great on that,’ he said. 

His remarks were seen as a swipe at former President Donald Trump. 

But Johnson said the UK would seek a good relationship with whoever was in the White House. 

‘It is the job of the prime minister of the UK to have a good relationship with the president of the United States,’ he said. ‘The US-UK relationship – we are doomed, we are fated to get along. That applies to Donald Trump, that applies to Joe Biden.’

On Wednesday morning, the British prime minister will be on Capitol Hill to meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

The British and American leaders are touting their close special relationship amid French fury at the new US-UK-Australian alliance, dubbed AUKUS, that saw Paris lose a $90 billion sub contract.

French President Emmanuel Macron recalled France’s ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after the deal was announced.

Biden has yet to address the situation and is attempting to speak to Macron.

‘We’re still working on the scheduling of it — with President Macron in the coming days,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

‘And what I expect the President will do on that call is reaffirm our commitment to working with one of our oldest and closest partners on a range of challenges that the global community is facing,’ she noted.

Johnson, meanwhile, will celebrate the new deal with a dinner Tuesday night at the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C. with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

President Joe Biden emphasized the partnership American democracy shares with the world as he sat down with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Boris Johnson sat down with NBC in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly where he gushed over Biden in an interview

Meanwhile, Biden and Morrison met in New York City on Tuesday afternoon where they emphasized their partnership was in the best interest of the world.  The AUKUS deal, as it has been dubbed, is part of American moves to counter China’s growing power in the Pacific region.    

‘The issues we discussed and our partnership today really do reach out to so many others in terms of how we address the global challenges,’ Morrison said as he met with Biden at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York

Biden agreed. ‘It goes well beyond just our partnership. Our partnership is in line with all the other democracies in the world. And we got a lot of work to do,’ he noted. 

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