Though it does not happen very often, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was held to account last week by more than one mainstream journalist over the use of anonymous briefings on newsworthy topics policy details, as Fox News reports.
The kerfuffle began when, during her Friday press briefing, Psaki was asked by Fox News’ Peter Doocy about an explosive Politico report in which a number of anonymous sources described the office of Vice President Kamala Harris as “abusive” and “not a healthy environment.”
Attempting to deflect the question and move swiftly to another topic, Psaki declared that she makes it a practice “not to speak to or engage on anonymous reports or anonymous sources,” as the New York Post noted, and that claim was met with nearly immediate pushback.
Bloomberg News White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs posted a tweet that included video of the exchange between Psaki and Doocy, adding her own commentary that the press secretary’s team “regularly organizes anonymous briefings on topics in the news.”
“I try not to speak to or engage on anonymous reports or anonymous sources,” says @PressSec Jen Psaki, whose team regularly organizes anonymous briefings on topics in the news. https://t.co/wmPMxEp5ps
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) July 2, 2021
Reacting to Jacobs’ observation, Psaki later tweeted, “I think everyone knows the difference between attacking someone as an anonymous source and providing details on a policy announcement to reporters in an effort to provide information and answer media questions.”
It was not long before Peter Baker of the New York Times offered support for Jacobs’ take, posting that while it was certainly true that the Biden administration was not the only one to have used anonymous briefings in the way Psaki described, he also added, “But with all respect, why should ‘providing details on a policy announcement’ be done anonymously in a transparent and open democratic society?”
The deluge of criticism directed at Psaki’s point was not over yet, as Steven Dennis of Bloomberg wrote, “The default should be briefings are on the record. I’ve never understood why WH’s insist on a process where transcripts are sent out quoting nameless [senior administration officials].”
The uproar over Psaki’s comments represents an exceedingly rare instance of willingness on the part of mainstream journalists to call out this sort of blatant administration hypocrisy, and while it seems unlikely to be a harbinger of things to come, hope does spring eternal.