Mainstream media reporters confronted White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday after she deflected questions about the alleged "abusive environment" of Vice President Kamala Harris' office.
What is the background?
Harris has become the focus of scrutiny in recent weeks after several reports alleged a toxic environment in her West Wing office.
"Harris' team is experiencing low morale, porous lines of communication and diminished trust among aides and senior officials," Politico recently reported. "In interviews, 22 current and former vice presidential aides, administration officials and associates of Harris and Biden described a tense and at times dour office atmosphere."
The focus comes after Harris took heat for abdicating her responsibility to take charge of the border crisis. Despite President Joe Biden tasking Harris with leading the administration's response to the crisis, it took Harris three months before she visited the U.S.-Mexico border. And even then, Harris only visited El Paso, a city hundreds of miles removed from the epicenter of the crisis.
What did the reporters say?
During Friday's press briefing, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked Psaki whether the White House is concerned about the allegations of an "abusive environment" in Harris' office.
In response, Psaki said, "I try not to speak to or engage on anonymous reports or anonymous sources."
But that's not actually true, according to Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs. In fact, Jacobs, who covers the White House, said Psaki routinely engages in "anonymous briefings" herself.
"'I try not to speak to or engage on anonymous reports or anonymous sources,' says @PressSec Jen Psaki, whose team regularly organizes anonymous briefings on topics in the news," Jacobs said.
Psaki quickly responded by claiming a distinction between her anonymous briefings and White House staffers giving anonymous accounts of the alleged "abusive environment" in Harris' office.
"I think everyone knows the difference between attacking someone as an anonymous source and providing details on a policy announcement to reporters in an effort to provide information and answer media questions," Psaki said.
But not so fast, said reporters from the New York Times, Bloomberg, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico.
- New York Times' Peter Baker: "Point taken. And this is true with every White House. But with all respect, why should 'providing details on a policy announcement' be done anonymously in a transparent and open democratic society?"
- Bloomberg's Gregory Korte: "Arguably granting anonymity to people who could lose their jobs for talking to the press is more defensible than anonymity for people whose *job* it is to speak to the press. Speaking 'on background' about administration policy is a weird D.C. practice I've never understood."
- Politico's Nahal Toosi: "Actually, shouldn't you have even less of a reason to be anonymous if you're simply 'providing details on a policy announcement…'?"
- Los Angeles Times' Molly O'Toole: "Everyone doesn't know difference between these ex of anonymity, because there isn't one: Both are abuses of anonymity, which should be rare & reserved for serious risk of physical or prof harm (for whistleblowers, not politics). Attacks & answering media questions(?!) not valid."