According to a Politico report Monday, the White House communications team is editing quotations from Biden administration officials, demanding interviews be performed on “background with quote approval.”
Five reporters who cover the White House spoke with Politico, and the outlet confirmed it has “participated in such arrangements too.” The above terminology means interview material can be used by reporters but the reporter’s transcription must be either approved, vetoed, or edited.
“The other week, the White House asked for background with quote approval for an interview with White House communications director KATE BEDINGFIELD for a profile about speechwriter VINAY REDDY,” Politico noted. “Close to deadline and with our editors giving us side-eye about filing late, we agreed.”
Those who spoke with the outlet said it was commonplace during the Barack Obama administration and used by the Donald Trump administration too. For instance, David Remnick of The New Yorker was forced by the Obama White House in a profile of his to “quietly” receive quote approval, according to Gawker. Michael Lewis likewise was involved in such an arrangement for Vanity Fair profile in 2012.
Politico noted that the Trump White House used the practice less frequently. One reporter said, “[t]he rule treats them like coddled Capitol Hill pages and that’s not who they are or the protections they deserve,” while another remarked, “[e]very reporter I work with has encountered the same practice.”
“The only way the press has the power to push back against this is if we all band together,” one of the reporters added.
The Associated Press previously told Politico, in 2012, that it does not allow reporters to use quote approval. Julie Pace of the AP said this is still the outlet’s policy. New York Times chief White House Correspondent Peter Baker lamented the practice and said background with quote approval provides a way to “tak[e] control of your story.”
“So instead of transparency, suddenly, the White House realized: ‘Hey, this quote approval thing is a cool thing. We can now control what is in their stories by refusing to allow them to use anything without our approval. And it’s a pernicious, insidious, awful practice that reporters should resist,” Baker said, acknowledging he has been forced to agree to the process.