Imagine daily White House press conferences beginning with lights dimming, a disco ball dropping from the ceiling and members of the presidential staff on stage providing synchronized dancing behind Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre as she prepares to take reporters’ questions. This visual is triggered from an op-ed by a reporter who regularly attends these pressers. But after President Joe Biden’s first post-midterm election conference, the reporter was so incensed, he felt compelled to share that these conferences are clearly choreographed.
Today News Africa correspondent Simon Ateba reports that this “rigged” process gives the appearance of a free-wheeling question and answer session, but in reality, it is not. He explains:
“Many things at the White House are rigged, especially press briefings or press conferences. Questions are often sent in advance by the same reporters who get called on all the time. The President, the Press Secretary, then reads prepared answers from a binder or a notebook with talking points.
“For the people watching at home, it all appears normal, reporters asking questions and getting answers. In reality, it’s a show, a sham, the appearance of normality.
“In a way, that’s how the White House operates. It’s not about reality, but the appearance of reality. It’s not about transparency, but the appearance of transparency. It’s also not about press freedom, but the appearance of press freedom. Appearance at the White House is reality.”
Ateba further opined:
“… President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is turning 80 years old this month [on Nov. 20], held such a sham press conference at the State Dining Room in the White House, the day after his party showed surprising strength at the polls despite rising inflation, skyrocketing crime and widening divisions across the nation.
“‘I’ve been given a list of 10 people that I’m supposed to call on. And you’re all supposed to ask me one question, but I’m sure you’ll ask me more,’ President Biden told a room full of local and international journalists.”
Ateba’s frustration was warranted as his name was not on the list of 10, and no free-wheeling exchange occurred. But most telling is how his own perception of racism in the U.S. has changed:
“When I first arrived in the United States, having watched CNN for years, I came to believe that the racists and the bad guys in the United States were the Republicans, the old white guys with no college degrees who live in the Midwest.
“But in the Biden White House, as I have struggled to get access, ask questions and be treated with the same dignity as others, I realized that the Republicans were not the racists and the horrible, awful people I was told they were.
“The racist is not the Republican or the Democrat. The racist is not the conservative or the liberal. The racist is the person who believes that you are not worth it, that you do not deserve to be treated with the same dignity as others because of where you come from, what you look like, what your gender is, what your beliefs are or what you sound like. And the racist is not also white or black or brown. I have faced racism from at least one female black reporter in the briefing room at the White House.”
When later pressed about their pressers and reporters’ “qualifications” for making the pre-approved list given Biden, the White House refused to respond.
Ateba remained unwilling to let the issue go by simply writing a critical op-ed. Days later, at a Nov. 22 press conference, as reporters shouted questions at Jean-Pierre, he could be heard demanding that she call on more reporters.
The idiom, “There are none so blind as those who will not see,” advises us, applied to the Biden administration’s press conferences, to open our eyes as the only reality is the appearance of reality.
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