The White House briefing room was filled to standing room only Monday for the first time since March 16, 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. "I'm very thrown off to where everyone's seated -- I'll adjust to it," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
Coronavirus restrictions had kept one of the most recognized rooms in the US government almost empty for 449 days. Following vaccinations, reporters were allowed to go mask-less on May 13 even though many had received the vaccine months earlier. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said "Hope everyone's cozy," as she stepped up to the podium on Monday.
Though the Biden administration, CDC and many Democrat governors have not yet rolled back many indoor mask guidelines or social distancing requirements, even for those that are vaccinated, forty-nine journalists sat elbow-to-elbow in the seats while others stood in the aisles.
Previously, questions had been limited to reporters in the room, who were only allowed in once every few days on a rotating schedule. Many reporters lamented the lack of access, especially given that many other public officials have taken questions via Zoom and other internet platforms.
The Biden administration has been called out repeatedly for pre-screening and limiting questions. Most recently, the Biden White House was revealed to have not only supported a secret legal effort to obtain the phone and email records of four New York Times reporters, but its Justice Department imposed a gag order on the Times executives, according to the Daily Wire.
Psaki, told CNN on Sunday that she was determined to stop reporters from turning the briefing room into "a forum for propaganda" the day before the press room returned to full capacity. CNN host Brian Stelter was ridiculed on social media for asking for Psaki's approval of the media coverage on "Biden's agenda."