White House Spokesman Clashes with Press Over Report on Biden’s Handling of Classified Documents

 White House Spokesman Clashes with Press Over Report on Biden’s Handling of Classified Documents

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White House spokesman Ian Sams has intensified a dispute with the presidential press corps by distributing a letter that accuses major news organizations of reporting “striking inaccuracies” about Special Counsel Robert Hur’s critical report on President Biden’s management of classified documents.

Sams addressed his four-page letter to Kelly O’Donnell, President of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) and a correspondent for NBC, criticizing the portrayal of Biden’s actions by several prominent news outlets including CNN, CBS, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and The Associated Press.

Sams took the unusual step of posting the letter on X (formerly Twitter) after O’Donnell chose not to circulate it among journalists. He further escalated the situation by asking pool reporters to distribute the letter to other members of the Correspondents’ Association.

O’Donnell responded by stating that the WHCA, as an organization advocating for journalists covering the presidency, does not serve as a platform for the government’s views on news coverage. She emphasized that it was inappropriate for the White House press office to use internal channels meant for logistical communication and rapid information sharing to spread critiques of news coverage.

In his letter, Sams argued that nearly every news outlet had misinterpreted the special counsel’s report, particularly focusing on a sentence that suggested President Biden had willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency. Sams contended that a more detailed examination of the report showed that the assessment was limited to certain classified documents found in Biden’s residences and office, with Hur ultimately recommending against criminal charges based partly on the perception of Biden as a well-meaning individual with memory issues.

Sams criticized the media for various aspects of their reporting on Hur’s findings, including misrepresentations of an audio recording mentioned in the report and inaccuracies regarding Biden’s sharing of classified information with his ghostwriter. He also noted that Hur’s report found limited evidence of willful retention of classified documents and concluded that charges were not warranted.

The White House has sought to differentiate Biden’s handling of classified documents from that of former President Donald Trump, who faces numerous charges for allegedly mishandling classified information after his presidency. Sams’ decision to address the Correspondents’ Association, which does not influence the editorial decisions of its members, has raised questions about the White House’s strategy in engaging with the press. This incident comes amid ongoing tensions between the Biden administration and the press corps, including controversies over the prescreening process for journalists attending White House events.

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