“He [Johnson] called on individuals from his press corps without alerting us to that intention in advance,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday when asked about the incident.
“I think our relationship with the United Kingdom and with Prime Minister Johnson is so strong and abiding, we will be able to move forward beyond this,” she added.
Biden on Tuesday wished Johnson “good luck” when the British leader attempted to take questions from the media.
Johnson then called on a handful of British reporters for questions — and when their American counterparts attempted to raise their own, the whole media scrum was ushered out of the room.
CBS News Radio’s White House correspondent Steven Portnoy, who is also president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said in a pool report dispatch on Tuesday that “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.”
Psaki noted that the president takes press questions several times a week, he added.
A day later on Wednesday, Psaki batted away any notion that Biden had felt “upstaged” by the British prime minister, telling reporters, “I think the president has not spent a moment worrying about it.”
Biden ruffled some feathers among the press corps in the early days of his presidency when he waited more than two months after his inauguration to hold his first news conference in March — longer than any of his predecessors in the past 100 years.
The Washington Post’s White House bureau chief, Ashley Parker, also highlighted after the Biden meeting with Johnson that “respect for a free press” was “a key tenet of a flourishing democracy.”
Submitting to substantial questioning and news conferences serve as a crucial venue for the media to probe and publicly hold to account the power of the presidency, which Psaki said Biden recognized as “vitally important to our democracy.”
“The President knows that he was elected not to just get the pandemic under control and put people back to work, but protect our democracy and stand up for what’s right and be transparent,” Psaki said Wednesday. “And, certainly, part of that is engaging with all of you.”
Meanwhile, the British prime minister’s office has yet to comment on the White House’s remarks and did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.