- Wednesday, June 14, 2023

There’s a long-standing tradition between the White House and the reporters who cover the most powerful man in the world: Before press conferences, aides will inform journalists if they’re getting a question.

But the White House of President Biden seems to be going a step further — getting the actual questions in advance.

At Thursday’s press conference with the British prime minister, Mr. Biden called on a Public Broadcasting Service reporter, who — despite the pressing problems around the world and the fact that U.S. reporters usually get only two questions — asked about the LGBTQ community.

“All over the country, Mr. President, Republican-led states are passing laws — passing anti-LGBTQ, anti-transgender laws that restrict rights and medical care,” Laura Barron-Lopez said. “Intimidation is on the rise. This week, anti-LGBTQ protesters turned violent in California.”

“And also recently, I spoke to the parents of a transgender girl in Texas who told me that they’re afraid and that they are considering leaving not just their state, but the country,” she said. “Sir, why do you think this is happening? And what do you say to parents, like the ones that I spoke to, to those families who are contemplating leaving the country because they don’t feel safe anymore?”

For the record, there were a lot of other topics Ms. Barron-Lopez could have asked about: soaring inflation and housing costs, rampant drug abuse and overdose deaths, skyrocketing federal debt (it rises $1 million every 24 seconds), an absurdly expensive health care system, wealth inequality, a crumbling infrastructure, escalating crime, immigrants storming into the U.S. illegally, mounting poverty and homelessness, to name a few.

Mr. Biden seemed well prepared for the softball query, which he used to bash “ugly” conservatives. “Our fight is far, far from over because we have some hysterical and, I would argue, prejudiced people who are engaged in all that you see going on around the country. It’s an appeal to fear, and it’s an appeal that is totally, thoroughly unjustified and ugly,” he said.

The exchange drew mockery on social media. Fox News Radio host Guy Benson said on Twitter there is “much to say about his answer, but her ‘question’ is quite a thing to behold.”

In another tweet, Newsbusters Managing Editor Curtis Houck called the question “Fake News” with the hashtag “DefundPBS.”

Mr. Houck went further, saying, “Notice how Biden read from prepared remarks in answering PBS reporter Laura Barron-Lopez’s ‘question’ about ‘anti-LGBTQ’ views in America, saying those who believe men are men & women are women are ’prejudiced,’ ‘ugly’ people.” He added: “ZERO question this was pre-screened. ALL scripted.”

The Republican National Committee research team also jumped into the fray, saying the president is “once again using a list of pre-selected reporters to call on at his press conference. Does he have the reporters’ questions again, too?” they asked.

Libertarian filmmaker Anna Zetchus Smith said of the “scripted” question and answer: “Tier reached: North Korean puppetry.”

Mr. Biden routinely has printed lists of White House reporters he must call on — in a news conference in March, he even had cards with reporters’ pictures on them.

And he uses cheat sheets in answering questions. In that March presser, one card said this: “Tough Putin Q&A: Talking Points.” The card included this question right at the top: “If you weren’t advocating for regime change, what did you mean? Can you clarify?”

Shockingly, the White House press office correctly picked the first question reporters would ask. And then they gave Mr. Biden the answer on the cheat sheet. The talking points: “I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward the actions of this man,” and “I was not articulating a change in policy.” When he was asked, that’s the answer he gave.

The Fourth Estate once spoke truth to power. Now, the so-called journalists that cover the president are cowed and whipped, more interested in selling their respective organizations’ agenda.

Perhaps we should just do away with press conferences altogether. Reporters could simply drop their questions into the wooden suggestion box at the White House, and Mr. Biden could send out an email with his answers.

That’s really not any dumber than the way it is now.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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