The scene of Monday’s White House press briefing was far different that it has been for more than a year: Reporters packed into the small space as restrictions were lifted to allow for 100% capacity.
“Our first full briefing room day since the president took office,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said as reporters filled seats and stood on the side, quipping that she was “very thrown off by where everyone is seated.”
The briefings have operated at a limited capacity since March 16, 2020, when the White House Correspondents Association imposed new social distancing guidelines that cut sharply the number of reporters allowed.
WHCA President Zeke Miller announced on Sunday that all 49 seats would be allowed to be filled as Covid-19 guidelines are lifted. Other work areas of the White House, like the North Lawn and indoor workspace, also will return to 100% capacity. Fully vaccinated journalists also will not need to get tested daily, unless they are in the president and vice president’s pool.
In March of last year, as Covid-19 spread throughout the country, and positive cases were reported among the press corps, the WHCA limited the number of journalists in the briefing room even further, to as little as 14. That was especially apparent as then-President Donald Trump held nightly Covid-19 press briefing, sometimes calling on reporters two or three times.
The briefing started with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan giving a preview of President Joe Biden’s trip to Europe later this week. That includes the G7 Summit and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In an interview with CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday, Psaki said that “The things that get under my skin are when the premise of a question is based on inaccurate information, misleading information. That can be frustrating.” That was an apparent reference to questions coming from news outlets from the right.
“I also have a responsibility not to allow the briefing room to become a forum for propaganda or a forum for pushing forward falsehoods or inaccurate information,” Psaki said, per The Guardian.
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