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Playboy reporter says his WHCA membership was declined after criticizing ‘conflict of interest’

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Playboy columnist Brian Karem, who sparred often with members of the Trump administration, said Thursday that his membership in the White House Correspondent’s Association was denied.

Karem took to social media to say his membership application was rejected after he posted a column critical of the WHCA.



“This morning at 9 a.m. EST my latest column for Playboy posted – one in which I criticized the WHCA for a conflict of interest. At 10:32 a.m. I was informed by the WHCA that my request for membership this year has been declined,” Karem tweeted. “Guess I won’t go to the dinner this year!”

His Jan. 28 column was critical of the manner in which the press organization is restricting reporters’ access to Biden administration press briefings.

“The Biden people say they want to demonstrate they are taking the pandemic seriously. But these new restrictions—unnecessary and poorly planned—are reminiscent of the Trump era: They ignore the fact that reporters have done a damn good job of policing themselves. We aren’t getting sick, and we’re taking steps to make sure we don’t,” Karem wrote. “What hurdles must we overcome for the Biden administration to see that?”

Karem, who has opposed limiting journalist access to the White House Briefing Room, observed that WHCA president Zeke Miller is doing “okay for himself” and is often called upon during briefings.

“The Biden team put the WHCA in charge of determining which of their professional comrades can enter, based on a daily lottery,” he noted in his column. “Reporters in the presidential pool, which includes WHCA board members, are now guaranteed access to the briefing room and the president on a regular but reduced basis. Everyone else is shut out with no guaranteed direct access. The only slim hope—extremely slim hope—of getting into the briefing room is by winning the daily lottery to do your job.”

He went on to say that while some journalists are happy with the new rules, “many other reporters and WHCA members find the new policy draconian and unnecessary,” going on to criticize Miller for enforcing the rules on behalf of the Biden White House.

“No reporter should be an agent of the state; no reporter has the right to tell another whether they can be present at the White House. The Secret Service already does that job quite well,” he noted. “When reporters police other reporters, it gives the impression those who are acting as cops have access others do not and made a Faustian deal to get it.”

Other journalists celebrated the WHCA’s decision.

Karem has a history of overly aggressive confrontations with Trump communications officials.

In June 2018, he shouted at then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders during a briefing regarding the Trump Administration’s immigration enforcement policies.

“Brian, settle down,” Sanders responded at one point. “I’m not going to have you yell out of turn.”

In July 2019 Karem almost came to blows with former Trump administration adviser Sebastian Gorka after challenging him to “go outside and have a long conversation.”

“You’re a punk! You’re not a journalist! You’re a punk!” Gorka responded after getting in Karem’s face.

In April, then-President Donald Trump called Karem a “loudmouth” during a COVID-19 briefing and threatened to “leave and you can have it out with the rest of these people.”

In December, then-White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany ripped Karem over “demeaning, misogynistic questions” she said he only directs towards Republican women.

“If you’re a female…in the Republican Party who takes that podium, guess what your worry is? Having a Playboy reporter shout questions at you, demeaning, misogynistic questions during a briefing,” McEnany explained.

“It’s a double standard, it’s one that’s ridiculous, and one that the White House Correspondents Association should look into when you have Playboy reporters shouting at women in a misogynistic manner simply because they’re a member of the GOP,” she added.

At one point, then-acting White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham revoked Karem’s press pass, but he filed suit to get it restored. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras, an Obama appointee, ruled in favor of Karem and ordered the pass restored.

Jon Dougherty

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