The number of journalists who have access to the White House has decreased by 31% during the last three months. The outcome of new regulations announced in May that became effective on Tuesday is that there are now 442 fewer journalists holding a coveted “hard pass.”
Fred Lucas of The Daily Signal was one of the journalists who was supposed to lose his White House press pass, but he was allowed a 10-day extension “to submit the required materials.” In order to comply with the White House’s new demand, journalists must now receive press credentials from either the Supreme Court or Congress; Lucas is presently awaiting a response to his petitions to the other branches.
The statistics were first published by Politico’s West Wing Playbook on Wednesday along with the breaking news that Simon Ateba, the Today News Africa White House correspondent, had lost his hard pass. Without a temporary day pass, Ateba and the other 441 journalists who have lost their credentials would not be able to enter the expansive Pennsylvania Avenue campus or attend White House press conferences.
In order to reduce the number of journalists who are qualified for a White House hard pass, the White House published new regulations in May. Reporters may still submit an application for a day permit, but they must do so each day and be approved by the Secret Service.
The number of journalists with hard passes was a secret up until this past week, according to the White House. In the last three months, according to Politico, “Within the past three months, the number of hard pass holders dropped from 1,417 to 975, with those approved reflecting a mix of renewals and new applications.”
One applicant for a hard pass was turned down under the new regulations, a White House spokesman acknowledged to Politico. The name of the reporter was kept a secret by the White House.
According to the six guidelines listed in the May letter, journalists must be full-time employees of a news organization, local residents of Washington, D.C., have regular access to and coverage of the White House, and consent to a Secret Service inquiry. Additionally, they now demand that those who want passes first receive “accreditation by a press gallery in either the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, or Supreme Court.”
Additionally, the letter provides President Joe Biden’s press office more authority to dismiss reporters who do not “act in a professional manner.” Ateba and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre frequently argued.
Ateba received a warning from the White House Press Office in July that if he kept disrupting briefings in breach of the new guidelines, he ran the prospect of being expelled.
BREAKING: The @WhiteHouse is changing the rules for press hard passes to target me. But I qualify for all those things as we just filed our taxes, are registered with the District of Columbia and have our address in DC. I studied journalism in college, received two degrees, have… pic.twitter.com/NMvVF4WSaC
— Simon Ateba (@simonateba) May 5, 2023
Lucas covered the White House for the administrations of Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden.
The White House claims that by restricting access to hard passes, the new regulations will improve security.
According to a White House spokesman who spoke to Politico, “at the time we initiated this process in early May, roughly 40% of hard pass holders had not accessed the White House complex in the prior 90 days.” “We think this demonstrates we’ve led a thoughtful and thorough process that preserves robust media access to campus for everyone who needs it—whether that be with a hard pass or a day pass,” the statement continues.
In July, an attorney for InterMountain Christian News White House journalist Matthew Anthony Harper sent the White House a cease-and-desist letter protesting the new regulations.
The letter stated that “The requirement of accreditation by a press gallery in either the U.S. Congress or the Supreme Court appears to be an effort to purge smaller, regional news outlets who cannot afford enough reporters to continually cover both the White House and another branch of government.”
The attorney, Paul Hoffman, added:
This necessarily leads to fewer news outlets covering essential government functions and to more reliance only on large news outlets whose perspectives are often different from smaller, regionally based news organizations representing unique constituencies around the country. Accordingly, these new restrictions appear aimed at reducing press access to the White House and are both arbitrary and discriminatory against small, diverse news outlets that will otherwise go unrepresented at White House press conferences.
Harper received the identical 10-day extension from the White House that Lucas did.
The White House Press Office informed Lucas that they would give him until August 10, 2023 to submit the necessary paperwork. “Your current hard pass to access the White House will remain valid while we review your application.”
Lucas may not obtain the “required materials” by the new date because it is uncertain when the House of Representatives, the Senate, or the Supreme Court would make a final decision on his application. This procedure might take months, which the Biden administration is surely counting on as it seeks to diminish those in the press corps who are critical of it.