Left-Wing Salon: Biden Admin. ‘Far More Successful Stifling Free Speech than Trump Ever Was’

US President Joe Biden departs after delivering remarks about the ongoing evacuation of Afghanistan, on August 24, 2021, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

A Salon article declared the “honeymoon” between the press and the president “over” as it accused the Biden administration of frequently preventing President Biden from speaking with the press due to fears of what they will ask and how he will respond, while claiming the president was failing due to his “tightly controlled relationship to the media” as he is “walled off by advisers who won’t let him talk.”

The essay, published Thursday, begins with Salon columnist and longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem stating “the mood has changed at the White House.”

Describing the White House press corps as initially “very happy” with its relationship with the 46th president, Karem claims all that has changed.

“He had a very low bar to crawl over to ease tensions with the free press — and his administration did just that,” he wrote. “Now, after nine months, it has become painfully clear the Biden administration will do little more than just that — crawl over a very low bar.”

He then highlighted the need for the press to be able to cover the president. 

“The president needs to answer questions before the press. A full press corps needs to be present on a regular basis to see if the president can handle the rigors of his job,” he wrote.

“Biden has conducted just one press conference in the White House since taking office — and because of COVID restrictions that was before a small number of pool reporters,” he added.

Karem, who is also the former senior White House correspondent for Playboy, also accused the White House of casting “lotteries” with “no transparency” to determine which reporters may be present at small briefings and speeches by the president. He wrote:

We are routinely told that pandemic restrictions limit the number of reporters allowed [in the East Room — the largest room], and thus the White House continues to conduct lotteries for access to the East Room, with no transparency about who they choose to be there when the president speaks.

Noting that President Biden regularly refuses to take questions, Karem deemed “COVID restrictions” a poor excuse.

“[His recent] speech in the North Lawn was again limited because of ‘COVID restrictions,’” he wrote. “That was just a lie.”

Reporters or technicians who’ve “covered more than a couple of administrations” routinely describe the Biden administration as “very strange” and “controlling,” according to Karem, who suggested that “[t]his administration clearly does not want us to observe or interact with the president in a regular and robust fashion.”

Of the president’s health, Karem wrote, “The people he represents have a right to know whether he is healthy.” 

“I can make no independent observation because I rarely get to see him,” he lamented.

He also noted that press time with the president “isn’t always about the questions or the answers,” but about who he is and how he acts.

“Sometimes it’s about seeing the president as a human being, and being able to relate to him. People want and need that,” he wrote. 

“For some people, that feeling means more than the president’s policy decisions,” he added. 

Claiming that people wish to “connect with their president and see him as human,” Karem warned that if the White House “doesn’t humanize the president, he’s seen as cold, aloof and uncaring.”

Despite describing his job as uncovering “what the president of the United States is doing,” Karem claimed the Biden administration believes the president actually “interacts too much” with the press. 

“As opposed to former President Donald Trump, Biden embraces the press, but is far more limited in his interactions with us,” he said, “making him every bit as frustrating professionally as Donald Trump, although so far he’s been far less personally annoying.”

Calling the “honeymoon [between President Biden and the press] indeed over,” he attributed the recent talk of how poorly the president is doing to the White House’s refusal to allow him to “connect with people.”

“[President Biden’s] communications team strictly limits his appearances, and therefore the administration comes off as arrogant, elitist and controlling,” he wrote. 

Karem also claimed he was told by a wrangler at the White House that he was not wanted near the president.

“The staff is afraid of what some of us will ask him, and what his responses will be,” he wrote.

He then accused the Biden administration of “stifling free speech” more successfully than former President Trump:

One byproduct of this that’s invisible from the outside is that by making the press pool and a few others feel special by their proximity and access, the Biden administration has been far more successful in stifling free speech than Trump ever was with his bullying.

“Bullying is easy to fight back against,” he added. “A smile, a warm embrace and a stiletto in the back is a little more difficult to counter.”

Karem attributed a recent CBS poll that showed only 10 percent of voters can say what the president’s Build Back Better agenda entails, to the president’s “limited interaction with the public.”

“[T]he fact that many Americans don’t even know what he is actually proposing [is] contributing to a renewed interest in Donald Trump and what’s left of the Republican Party as we head into a crucial midterm election cycle,” he admitted.

“As it turns out, Republicans are better at messaging than Democrats — even when they support the Democrats,” he added.

Karem concluded by warning that, as such, the president and Democrats cannot fight the “threat of fascism in this country.”

“[E]very single day, Joe Biden and the Democrats show they still have a long way to go in countering this slow-moving coup,” he wrote.

As he continues taking a lower public profile, President Biden has been accused of remaining silent on key issues as problems for his administration stack up, often refusing to take any questions from reporters on the host of issues facing his presidency.

Last Friday, President Biden turned his back on the press, swiftly walking away as reporters shouted questions following his remarks on the bleak September jobs report. 

Last month, he continued his conflict with American reporters as he urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to take questions during a meeting in the Oval Office. 

In addition, he infuriated the press after snubbing American reporters during a meeting with United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson — even after Johnson called on reporters from the U.K.

In April, the president expressed concern he would “be in trouble” for going off script and taking too many questions from reporters during an event on the updated mask guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and vaccination progress.

“Look, I’m sorry. I’m going to — this is the last question I’ll take,” he said, returning briefly to the podium. “I’m really going to be in trouble.”

The following month, when reporters shouted questions at him after he addressed multiple crises around the world, the president paused and replied, “You guys are bad. I’m not supposed to be answering all these questions. I’m supposed to leave but I can’t resist your questions.”

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein

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