White House reporters out of patience with Jean-Pierre over docs: CNN

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White House reporters out of patience with Jean-Pierre over docs: CNN

The White House press corps is fed up with Karine Jean-Pierre’s stonewalling about the classified documents scandal that has enveloped the Biden administration, with some reporters calling the press secretary’s regular briefings a “painful waste of time.”

“She is arguably the least effective White House press secretary of the television era,” one correspondent told CNN’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter Wednesday, though the person added the pejorative did not apply to press secretaries for former President Donald Trump.

Since Jan. 9, when the White House confirmed that sensitive materials had been found at the Penn Biden Center think tank in Washington, and the president’s Wilmington, Del. home, Jean-Pierre has stuck to her talking points, and refused to let officials from the Justice Department or White House Counsel’s office face the press amid the ongoing special counsel investigation.

That hasn’t sat well with journalists, who have grilled Jean-Pierre day after day about the White House’s lack of transparency.

White House correspondents say they are at wit's end with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre's evasions about the Biden classified documents.
White House correspondents say they are at wit’s end with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s evasions about the Biden classified documents.
AFP via Getty Images
White House correspondents are frustrated at the lack of details about the Biden classified documents at daily briefings by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
White House correspondents are frustrated at the lack of details about the Biden classified documents at daily briefings by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Getty Images

“You just get the feeling that you’re wasting your time and whatever is in front of her in the binder is all she is going to say, no matter how many times you ask the question,” another reporter told CNN. “It’s just a painful waste of time.”

Jean-Pierre, the first black person and first openly gay person to serve as the chief White House press rep, has been widely mocked online for appearing to refer exclusively to a thick binder for talking points in response to reporter questions.

But her ongoing evasions over the documents have drawn the open ire of reporters for outlets that span the political spectrum.

Classified documents were discovered at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., and at President Biden's Delaware home where he parks his 1967 Corvette.
Classified documents were discovered at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., and at President Biden’s Delaware home where he parks his 1967 Corvette.
Joe Biden
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at the daily briefing on Wednesday.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at the daily briefing on Wednesday.
AFP via Getty Images

“I think you can tell the temperature has gone up a lot in the last few days,” ​one reporter ​told CNN.​

At Wednesday’s briefing, ​Jacqui Heinrich of Fox News accused the administration of creating an “information blackout” ​ — while Jean-Pierre tried to shut down another reporter’s line of questioning by attempting to call on someone else.

“I just commented. I just commented,” Jean-Pierre insisted to the reporter, Jon Decker of Gray Television, after she referred another of his questions to the Justice Department. “We’re moving on…. I already answered your question.”

“You really didn’t,” Decker said.

“Well, I — I did,” Jean-Pierre insisted.

“You didn’t,” Decker shot back, to which Jean-Pierre responded: “It’s your opinion. It’s your opinion. It’s your opinion. That is your opinion.”

Most galling, according to the CNN report, is that Jean-Pierre ​failed to notify the press corps last Friday that more classified documents had been recovered the night before at Biden’s home in Delaware. ​

The cover of the New York Post on Tuesday about how the White House won't reveal visitors to President Biden's Delaware home.
The cover of the New York Post on Tuesday about how the White House won’t reveal visitors to President Biden’s Delaware home.

​”On Friday, you stood here, though, and were asked about this documents issue, by our count, some 18 times,” ABC News’ Cecilia Vega pressed Jean-Pierre on Tuesday. “At that point, the president’s lawyers had found these five additional pages of classified documents. So, did you not know on Friday that those documents had been found when you were at the podium? Or are you being directed by someone to not be forthcoming on this issue?”

Jean-Pierre said she had been “forthcoming from this podium,” ​pointing out that she repeated what the White House counsel’s office said in a previously released statement. ​

“Right.  And we had that statement, so we knew what was in it​,” Vega said. 

At Tuesday’s briefing, Jean-Pierre admitted that she was also unaware of the discovery of the documents at the Penn Biden Center on Nov. 2 and only learned about them when CBS News reported on the find Jan. 9.

​​”There is the expectation that when you say something, it’s going to be true,” one reporter ​told CNN. “That’s been the biggest credibility hit for her, it’s answering a question in a way that ends up not being tru​e.”​

“She is really liked, personally,” another reporter put it more bluntly, “but that shouldn’t be an excuse for her competence professionally.”

The White House defended Jean-Pierre, insisting to CNN she was restricted about what she can say because of the Justice Department probe, though NBC News reported this week the DOJ has not prevented the White House from talking about the probe’s underlying facts if it wishes.

An administration official said Jean-Pierre is acting in a manner that’s consistent with “prior White House press secretaries from both parties who have responsibly respected ongoing DOJ investigations and referred to the relevant authorities.” 

T​he White House aide said the press secretary was ​”wisely and appropriately affirming the White House’s position of total cooperation and being careful not to go further to respect the integrity of an investigation.” 

​”If reporters are concerned about substance and getting facts shared with them, they have had venues for that,” the official went on

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