Amidst growing concerns over censorship, the Biden White House is changing its rules on press credentials, potentially forcing conservative reporters out of the briefing room.
According to the new rules, White House reporters must hold a press pass from the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate, or Supreme Court to maintain access to the White House briefing room. Starting July 31, existing White House “hard passes” will expire, leaving several reporters without access to press briefings. One such reporter is Fred Lucas, White House correspondent for The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet The Daily Signal. Lucas has held a hard pass since 2009 and has covered both Obama’s and Trump’s presidencies; in two weeks, Lucas will be without a White House press pass.
The new rule change has been criticized as a form of censorship and media manipulation. Lucas told The Washington Stand, “This is a first step of the Biden administration to oust what they consider noncompliant media from the White House. I have covered the White House under both the Obama and Trump administrations, and there has never been a targeted press purge like this before.” In the past, the process for obtaining access to the White House briefing room was, according to Lucas, “apolitical and decided by the Secret Service,” but “[t]he Biden White House has now politicized the process.”
The Heritage Foundation’s vice president of communications, Rob Bluey, agreed, telling The Washington Stand, “Joe Biden’s White House is engaged in a blatant act of censorship. By arbitrarily changing the rules and making it a prerequisite for reporters to first obtain congressional or Supreme Court credentials, the White House is intentionally banishing reporters like The Daily Signal’s Fred Lucas.”
Another journalist who will be impacted is Dr. Anthony Harper of InterMountain Christian News, a veteran White House reporter for the past 12 years. Harper told The Washington Stand that this latest rule change is “a press purge to the high and mighty who select media people that I guess have the largest audience, the ones that they can control. It’s really a purge of conservative media.” He noted that his applications for a press pass have been denied by both the House and Senate, ostensibly because InterMountain Christian News is a relatively small non-profit organization. He noted, “It’s discriminatory on behalf of the Congressional press offices in the way they’re treating our news organization and me by saying that you can’t be a non-profit news organization. They’re discounting our audience.”
Today News Africa’s White House correspondent, Simon Ateba, also stands to lose his press pass. In a statement to The Washington Stand, he said, “Suspending or revoking my hard pass would not only hinder my ability to fulfill my responsibilities but also impede the public’s right to access reliable information. I believe in the importance of transparency and open dialogue, and I am committed to providing accurate and comprehensive coverage.”
U.S. senators have also taken issue with the new press pass rules. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted, “The Biden White House can’t find out who brought in cocaine, but they sure can spot and throw out a conservative member of the press,” referring to the recent handling of an investigation into cocaine found in the White House, which many allege to be Hunter Biden’s. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also issued a tweet, saying, “Normally the Biden White House asks Big Tech to censor conservatives for them, but it seems they’ve taken it into their own hands.”
Although the White House has not yet released a comprehensive list of those who will be left without press passes, those known to be affected approach their reporting from conservative or Christian angles. Harper noted, “I’m the only reporter there who’s yelled out, ‘What about a child’s right to life?’ … I’ve been the only one to really call out the Biden administration on their anti-Semitic policies.”
Ateba pointed out his reporting focuses on concerns over communism, saying that “China and Russia are expanding their influence across Africa, while U.S. influence is waning.” He explained, “Our publication focuses on shining a light on ties and interactions between the United States and Africa, and it’s sad that those in Washington do not understand the situation.”
The Daily Signal’s managing editor, Tyler O’Neill, explained to The Washington Stand the important function his outlet serves:
“The legacy media too often marches in lockstep to defend the Biden administration’s narrative, ignoring inconvenient facts like the Hunter Biden laptop. In this environment, conservative news outlets like The Daily Signal perform a vital function in holding the government accountable and asking the questions others refuse to utter. The Daily Signal has doggedly covered allegations of Biden family corruption, the White House’s attacks on the parental rights movement and its collaboration with the leftist smear group the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the many ways Biden has weaponized the federal government against Americans. The Daily Signal is merely fulfilling the role that legacy media outlets gleefully take up when a Republican is in the White House. The White House policy change that will exclude Fred Lucas from the briefing room feels like retaliation for our essential work.”
This is by no means the first instance of the Biden White House censoring conservatives. In fact, the censorship began even before Biden took office. A New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop — packed with incriminating emails and text messages as well as homemade pornography featuring the now-president’s son — was censored on social media and labeled Russian misinformation, just days before the 2020 election. A top FBI agent confirmed this week that the laptop was real: the FBI knew it was real the very day the agency asked Twitter to suppress the story and even told Twitter executives that the laptop story was true.
Last year, Biden’s Department of Homeland Security announced the formation of a Disinformation Governance Board, meant to examine and, if necessary, censor the free speech of Americans. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said of the Board’s formation, “Homeland Security has decided to make policing Americans’ speech its top priority.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) compared the Board to the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984.” The Board was run by Nina Jankowicz, a leftist think tank affiliate and vocal Democrat. At the time, she referred to the Hunter Biden laptop story as “a Trump campaign product.” The Board was disbanded less than four months after its introduction.
The Twitter Files — the first installment of which was published in December — revealed the extent to which Democrats and the politicized FBI had access to Twitter’s censorship mechanisms both during and after the 2020 election.
Earlier this month, federal judge Terry Doughty issued a temporary injunction barring the Biden administration from interacting with social media companies to censor Americans or working with intermediary groups like the Stanford Internet Observatory to have them pressure social media outlets to censor Americans. In his ruling, Doughty found that “virtually all of the free speech [the Biden administration] suppressed was ‘conservative’ free speech.” Earlier this week, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay on Doughty’s injunction, at the request of the federal government.
More recently, Democratic primary contender Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. offered testimony on government censorship to the House Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Kennedy himself has been a victim of government censorship: many of his posts on public health — including his criticism of COVID-19 “vaccines” — were suppressed online at the behest of the federal government.
In his opening remarks, Kennedy told the subcommittee, “A government that can censor its critics has license for every atrocity. It is the beginning of totalitarianism.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Democrats on the committee attempted to censor Kennedy’s testimony, moving to keep it behind closed doors, instead of in the public. Representative Thomas Massie (R-K.Y.) responded, “This is a hearing on censorship that began with an effort … to censor Mr. Kennedy!”
The White House’s new press credential rules appear to be the latest in a long and well-documented line of attempts at censorship. Lucas told The Washington Stand that “it should be concerning to any Americans when an administration — Republican or Democrat — attempts to select who can and can’t cover it.” Bluey noted that “it’s also disappointing that members of the White House Correspondents’ Association aren’t objecting to this attack on media access.” He added, “The Daily Signal won’t be bullied, and we’re not backing down.”
The new rule will go into effect July 31. The White House has yet to release a list of reporters affected by the new rule.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.
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