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Monday, October 18, 2021

‘Indian media is ‘better behaved’ than the US’: White House defends Biden’s statement

US President Joe Biden’s statements slapping at US media for asking questions that aren’t ‘on topic’ in front of a foreign head of state were defended by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who said his words weren’t meant as a ‘hard cut’ on them.

Jen Psaki was grilled by the media on Monday about Biden’s remarks to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in which he advised his counterpart not to answer questions and appeared to attack US journalists. 

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“I think what he said is that they’re not always “on point.” Now, I know that it isn’t something that anyone wants to hear here. But what I think he was conveying is, you know, today, he might want to talk about Covid vaccines; some of the questions were about that. He might want to talk about something else, and some of the questions are not always about the topic he’s talking about that day, ” Psaki said.

“I don’t think it was meant to be a hard cut at the members of the media – people he has taken questions from today and on Friday as well,” she said.

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According to Reporters Without Borders, India is ranked 142nd in the world when it comes to press freedom, and the US is ranked 44th in the world.

To this, Psaki said, “I would just say to you that having now worked for the President, serving in this role for nine months, having seen that he’s taking questions from the press more than 140 times, that he certainly respects the role of the press, the freedom of the free press.”

“We ensure that we have a press with us, of course, when we travel; that we have a press with us for sprays in foreign capitals; and we will continue to. And I think that should speak to his commitment to freedom of the press around the world, ” she said.

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In the past, Biden has lauded the importance of reporters and journalism, but he has also expressed dissatisfaction with the coverage of him and his administration, as well as the questions he is asked while interacting with the press.

Biden was sitting in the Oval Office with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in late July when NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell questioned him about Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough’s declaration that frontline VA personnel would have to undergo Covid-19 vaccines.

“You are such a pain in the neck,” Biden replied, smiling, “but I’m going to answer your question because we’ve known each other for so long.” 

“It has nothing to do with Iraq … I’ll answer your question. Yes, Veteran Affairs is going to, in fact, require that all doctors working in their facilities are going to have to be vaccinated,” he added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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