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Correspondents’ Association calls White House letter criticizing coverage of Hur report 'misdirected’

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) on Thursday pushed back after a spokesperson wrote to the organization criticizing reporters’ coverage of the special counsel report on President Biden’s handling of classified documents.

In a message to members, WHCA President Kelly O’Donnell called the letter from spokesperson Ian Sams “misdirected” and said it was “inappropriate” for the White House to disseminate it through internal distribution channels meant for the sharing of logistics and need-to-know information.

“As a non-profit organization that advocates for its members in their efforts to cover the presidency, the WHCA does not, cannot and will not serve as a repository for the government’s views of what’s in the news,” O’Donnell said. “The White House has far reach to make its positions known on [special counsel Robert Hur’s] report or any other matter.”

O’Donnell noted the White House has direct contact information for White House correspondents, editors and bureau chiefs and should have reached out to them directly if they had concerns about coverage.

“In its 110-year history, our association has never controlled or policed the journalism that is published or broadcast by our members or their employer,” O’Donnell said.

“The WHCA welcomes—and its members surely seek— further opportunities to ask questions of the president, the White House counsel, or the president’s personal attorney on this matter,” she added.

In a Feb. 13 letter addressed to O’Donnell and members of the association, Sams argued reporters posed questions that included “false content or are based on false premises.”

The letter cited specific headlines, reporting and questions from a briefing last week to argue reporters had misinterpreted the report and its conclusions.

The White House has specifically zeroed in on reporting that Biden “willfully retained” classified materials, a phrase used in the report’s executive summary. But Hur wrote later in the report that there was a shortage of evidence as to whether Biden intentionally took the documents.

“We understand that the members of the WHCA cover challenging and complex topics day in and day out. Your jobs are not easy. But they are important,” Sams wrote. “When significant errors occur in coverage, such as essentially misstating the findings and conclusions of a federal investigation of the sitting President, it is critical that they be address.”

The letter is the latest instance of the White House aggressively pushing back against Hur’s report, which concluded Biden should not face charges for his handling of classified materials from his time as vice president and senator.

But that conclusion was largely overshadowed by Hur’s rhetoric about Biden’s memory and ability to recall key dates and facts. The special counsel wrote that Biden struggled to remember when he was vice president and when his son Beau died.

The White House has chastised Hur for those comments, calling them “gratuitous” and arguing they were irrelevant to the final report.

Hur is scheduled to testify before a House committee on March 12.

Source: The Hill

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