WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden’s campaign wouldn’t let reporters listen to a question-and-answer session during a virtual fundraiser with Wall Street donors on Thursday night, a break from its usual procedures and from the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s past pronouncements about promoting transparency.
The former vice president’s campaign suggested that such press limits would be common going forward as Biden prepares to square off with President Donald Trump in November.
“Tonight’s event was a new format as we enter a new phase of the general election campaign,” Rufus Gifford, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement.
The event’s main hosts included Roger Altman, founder of Evercore, Blair Effron, founder of Centerview Partners, and Deven Parekh, managing director of Insight Partners. All three firms are based in New York.
Rather than allowing journalists from The Associated Press and other news agencies — as well as a designated pool reporter — to participate via video conference, as had been common during previous Biden fundraisers during the coronavirus outbreak, members of the media were told to dial in by phone. Biden was heard giving about five minutes of opening remarks and mentioned the effects of the pandemic on New York, noting, “I know these are anxious times.”
“Folks, this is go time, as they say,” Biden said. “We have less than six months to Election Day — who’s counting, as the old saying goes — and Trump has been raising money since the day he got elected in 2016.”
After that, Biden said he would take questions from the roughly 25 people his campaign announced were participating — but the line disconnected for the reporters listening by phone. Attempts to call back were denied access to the conference, and it took more than an hour for the campaign to provide an explanation, which came in Gifford’s statement.
“We will continue to ensure press access to our virtual finance events as part of our campaign’s commitment to transparency,” Gifford said. “One that vastly exceeds anything that Donald Trump and his campaign have offered the American people.”
Trump generally does not allow press into his fundraisers, though he has occasionally done so. President Barack Obama also routinely had members of the media leave fundraisers during the question-and-answer sessions.
During the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Pete Buttigieg — who is hosting a virtual fundraiser for Biden on Friday — was criticized for holding fundraisers without reporters present. He eventually reserved course and allowed some media access.
Biden had often allowed press to attend previous fundraisers, both in person and virtually, in their entirety. During a debate in February, he assailed presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg over the use of nondisclosure agreements.
“This is about transparency from the very beginning,” Biden said. “Whether it’s your health records, whether it’s your taxes, whether you have cases against you, whether or not people have signed nondisclosure agreements.”