A hard and fast rule should be instituted immediately for White House press briefings: Journalists should be required to announce their names and media affiliations before asking a question.
That may—I repeat, may—have avoided the startling occurrence at the April 6 coronavirus briefing when a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) agent masquerading as a reporter (an all-too-obvious cover to anyone even remotely familiar with spy fiction) began to spout propaganda before launching a bogus query to the president of the “when did you stop beating your wife?” ilk.
At least the rule would be a start, though few in the U.S. television audience would recognize Phoenix Media, a supposedly private Hong Kong operation that, besides being owned partly (10 percent) by the CCP directly, has as its primary owner (37.1 percent) Liu Changle, a former propaganda officer for the People’s Liberation Army and what was then known as the Central People’s Broadcasting System (now bowdlerized as China National Radio).
As they say, if it walks like a duck—it’s a red duck.
Nevertheless, with the apparent acquiescence of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA—who current rotating head is ABC’s Jonathan Karl) that traditionally controls access, Youyou Wang, a young woman from Phoenix Media, was somehow admitted to the coveted foreign journalist position in the White House briefing room. (These difficult-to-obtain seats are even more sparse due to extended coronavirus spacing.)
There, in the grand tradition of Tokyo Rose, she was able to launch a screed about how China (read: the CCP) was being so generous to the United States and other nations by shipping them masks, ventilators, and the rest—this, although it is now well known that China—among its many novel coronavirus-related malfeasances—hoarded and even imported staggering amounts (billions, actually) of those same materials before announcing the virus to the world.
Trump, either by advance warning or instinct (the CCP has been engaged in this particular coverup for some time), was having none of it and asked immediately, “Who are you working for, China?” The woman, of course, denied it, claiming she was employed by a “private” enterprise—she hadn’t identified herself at first—but clearly the president, as anyone interested now knows, was right.
What concerns me, however, isn’t another—in this case, mostly unsuccessful—CCP propagandist from the world of “journalism.” It is how and why she was able to get into a position to make her dubious pronouncements before the president of the United States and an audience that has gone as high as 8 million of our fellow citizens.
Perhaps she was in the queue for the natural rotation for the single foreign journalist seat. Or perhaps someone moved her ahead in the line. (Some have pointed the finger at Karl, no friend of Trump’s, but there is no concrete evidence he would go so far as to give preference to communist propaganda.)
Let’s hope it was that rotation, but if so, the WHCA might be well advised to examine their vetting process. We all believe in freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but using White House press conferences as a platform for dogmatic lies during a pandemic can be construed as the journalistic equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater.
Transparency on the part of the WHCA is called for, but unfortunately, the workings of that association are far from transparent. They have been accused of elitism and favoritism toward established mainstream media entities for some time. They function almost as a cartel protecting the front row positions of the networks that have endured for decades.
That the association is best known to the public for sponsoring a televised annual glamour dinner (also known as the “nerd prom” and mercifully canceled this year for obvious reasons) only enhances a snobbish, elitist reputation that isn’t congruent with a healthy and open press in a democratic republic.
Early in the Trump administration, some effort was given to democratize the atmosphere in the press room. This seems to have largely gone by the wayside in the welter of events. Perhaps in a second Trump administration, this could be reinstituted, as well as, more immediately, the aforementioned proposal that journalists identify themselves to the public before launching into what are often accusatory questions. They owe us that much.
Roger L. Simon is The Epoch Times’ senior political columnist. He is the author of many books and films. His most recent is “The GOAT.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.