01:02 GMT08 March 2021
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    White House Press Secreary Jen Psaki received some stick at a briefing last week after spending an inordinate amount of time shuffling through notes after being asked a question about the federal government’s coronavirus response, ultimately promising to get back to the reporter asking the question at a later date.

    Multiple White House press corps reporters have expressed concerns over Biden administration staffers quietly asking them to make their briefing questions known in advance, the Daily Beast has reported, citing three sources said to be in the know. 

    Apparently staffers have repeatedly probed reporters on what kinds of questions they plan to ask Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, in her regular White House briefings.

    “While it’s a relief to see briefings return, particularly with a commitment to factual information, the press can’t really do its job in the briefing room if the White House is picking and choosing the questions they want. That’s not really a free press at all,” one White House correspondent told the outlet.

    The issue is thought to have been considered serious enough to be brought up at an informal White House Correspondents Association virtual call late last week after it “p***ed off enough reporters” to be flagged. Association members reportedly advised reporters to stonewall staffers mining for information.

    A White House spokesperson told the outlet that inquiries about questions were normal, and aimed at making briefings “as useful and informative as possible for both reporters and the public,” and to ensure that a “two-way conversation” takes place to keep “the American people updated about how government is serving them.”

    Jen Psaki, who made a name for herself as a foot-in-mouth State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration, returned to the media spotlight this month after being tapped as Biden’s press secretary. While praised by the Washington Post, the New York Times, Vox, Forbes, and other mainstream outlets for her “reality-grounded,” “must-see TV” briefings, she has also received flak from other corners for her habit of trailing off mid-sentence, mixing up foreign officials’ titles, and spending an inordinate amount of time shuffling through papers searching for notes to answer questions.

    During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump and his supporters repeatedly accused Biden of receiving favourable treatment from the press, of being fed answers to reporters’ questions through a teleprompter, and of being given questions to be asked by the debate monitor at a presidential debate in September. Biden’s campaign vigorously denied these claims, and major news agencies including AP and Reuters described them as false.

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