After ‘chains’ remark, Biden’s staff tries to edit press pool reports


Vice President Joe Biden's "penchant for off-message moments regularly sends aides in the West Wing and at Chicago reelection headquarters into orbit," Jonathan Martin writes in Politico, so his staff tries "to save Biden from himself." On a recent trip to Virginia, "aides tried to edit media pool reports for any potential landmines that could be seized on by Republicans and even hovered at close range to eavesdrop on journalists’ conversations with attendees at Biden rallies."

Their efforts to manage pool reports is a new tactic in message control:

Because the entire press corps cannot easily jam in, say, a diner or private home, it is standard practice to have a single designated reporter take notes and share the material with colleagues from other news organizations. These reports are designed entirely for the media, but are distributed by White House staffers. In the case of Obama, as with his predecessors, the reports are simply forwarded without comment by email to a news media distribution list.

But on two occasions during Biden’s Virginia trip, his staff sought to have certain elements in the reports highlighted while reporters drafted them and discussed the contents with the reporters after the summaries had been sent but before they had before sent to the broader media.

In mid-July, The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters reported on both presidential campaigns' increasing demands to approve quotes before they are published. Some news outlets don't play along with such demands, but others do.

After a rally, Martin reports, a press aide "was eavesdropping as a reporter attempted to interview attendees who had spoken with the vice president on the rope line."

Related: Politico’s Harris: ‘Quote doctoring does bother me’ | Dan Rather: Quote approval is ‘a jaw-dropping turn in journalism’ | What’s the deal with quote approval? | National Journal, McClatchy ban quote approval

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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