WASHINGTON: The White House has tried to pacify an upset American media over Joe Biden's off the cuff remarks that the Indian press is "better behaved" than their US counterparts, with a senior official saying the President's comments were not meant as a "hard cut" on them.
President Biden during his first in-person bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House on Friday praised the Indian press, calling it "better behaved" than the US media, criticising American reporters for asking questions that are not "on point" in front of a foreign head of government/state.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday faced a number of questions on Biden's comments from American journalists but defended the President's remarks.
"I think what he said is that they’re not always “on point.” Now, I know that 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 — 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.
At the White House briefing, another reporter objected to the comparison between Indian and the American media.
The reporter said, "The Indian press is ranked 142nd in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), for press freedoms. How does he say that about the US press compared to the Indian press?"
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 role of 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 — 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.
According to RSF, the US media is ranked 44 for press freedoms.