White House Spokesman’s Scathing Letter to Media Sparks Controversy and Press Corps Backlash

by Jessica
Joe Biden

The tension between the White House and the presidential press corps escalated on Thursday as White House spokesman Ian Sams circulated a letter accusing top news outlets of publishing “striking inaccuracies” about special counsel Robert Hur’s report on President Biden’s handling of classified documents. In the scolding four-page missive addressed to White House Correspondents’ Association President Kelly O’Donnell, Sams singled out reports by CNN, CBS, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and The Associated Press.

O’Donnell did not forward the reprimand to journalists, prompting Sams to post it to X on Wednesday. On Thursday, he went further by asking the day’s pool reporters to send it along to other Correspondents’ Association members. In a rare rebuke, O’Donnell criticized Sams’ tactics, stating that it was “misdirected” and “inappropriate” for the White House press office to use pool reporters to circulate it.

The letter accused news outlets of misunderstanding the special counsel report, particularly focusing on the third sentence, which stated, “Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.” Sams argued for a more careful reading, asserting that the assessment only pertained to specific classified documents.

O’Donnell emphasized that the White House should directly reach out to news organizations with concerns about their editorial decision-making, rejecting the use of internal pool distribution channels for generalized critiques of news coverage. The letter from Sams claimed that reporters had misrepresented the report’s conclusion about the President, citing “striking inaccuracies.”

The letter addressed specific points in the report, disputing media coverage of the President’s alleged willful retention of classified documents. Despite Sams’ critique, the spokesperson did not address reporting on Hur’s assessment of Biden’s perceived cognitive decline.

The move by Sams to send the letter to the Correspondents’ Association stirred controversy, raising questions about press freedom and the appropriate channels for addressing concerns about media coverage. This development adds to a series of conflicts between the Biden administration and the press, highlighting the challenges in navigating the relationship between the government and the media.

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