Has 'transparent' Joe Biden curbed press and public access? Conservatives demand White House be 'open by default'
Joe Biden had pledged to prioritize a transparent approach to the media and public relations during his campaign for the president’s office. But just over a month since taking the oath, he was reportedly found to have fallen short of the promise and is under more pressure to restore confidence in the federal government, something which has shaken in the days of Donald Trump as the president.
Politico came up with a report throwing some light on how the Biden administration has not reportedly restored transparency the way the people and press of America would have loved. It cited some examples like how the schedules of the president and vice president are not posted online, the White House comment line is shut and there are no citizen petitions on the White House’s website.
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It also said while the White House is committed to releasing visitor logs, it has no plans to reveal names of those who attend the virtual meetings — the main mode of interaction till the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic subsides. Politico also said that while Biden has been praised for keeping the people informed by resuming daily briefings at the White House, he is yet to hold a press conference of his own.
“The steps they’ve taken are welcome, but insufficient to the moment and the need,” Alex Howard, director of the Digital Democracy Project at the Demand Progress Educational Fund, arm of a Left-leaning group, was quoted as saying by Politico. “They need to keep ‘showing their work’ by opening Cabinet meetings, disclosing information and using political capital to emphasize that being ‘open by default’ isn't just an option but an obligation across the government.”
The report added that for several good government groups, both on the left and right, it is not enough to be simply not being Trump. These groups are requesting Biden to do more than just not being Trump. They want him to fix problems in transparency laws, which include responding to public records requests more quickly, publishing Office of Legal Counsel opinions, revising classification policies, releasing logs of virtual meetings, etc.
'Moves to curb press and public access'
Conservative website Just the News has slammed President Biden saying while he promised a transparent approach, his administration has “closed off -- at least for now — several key avenues via which the press and public have for years gained a modicum of transparency, accessibility and accountability from the White House”.
“These moves to curb press and public access come as President Joe Biden himself has at times appeared to be struggling with the public demands of his job,” it added.
One source in the White House defended the Biden administration’s decision to not release virtual meeting logs saying: “Virtual meetings will not be subject to release — in the same way that previous administrations didn’t release phone logs — but we’re planning on regularly releasing the attendee lists for in-person meetings at the White House.”
The Just the News report also criticized the White House saying it has shut down its comment line by which the citizens of America can call in to leave remarks for the executive branch. One recording claims that the comment office is “temporarily closed” and urged the collars to instead visit the White House’s contact page.
The report said the popular “We the People” petitioning platform, which was started in the times of former president Barack Obama, has also been removed by the current administration.
In a fact-checking article, Newsweek reported that when Trump took over as the president in January 2017, his administration removed the “We the People” page, causing an outrage.
“The Washington Post reported that several petitions demanding Trump release his tax returns and resign reached well over 100,000 signatures before the page was removed with a note saying it was undergoing maintenance. Eventually, the petitioning system returned, but the page disappeared the day of Biden's inauguration. Previous links redirect to the White House homepage,” it said.
The Just in News report said the 78-year-old president, seemed to struggle at times with his rigorous schedules and public appearances and has failed to host a single news conference since taking oath.