Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign removed the press from a fundraising call with Wall Street donors on Thursday shortly before the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee began taking questions from those on the line.
It was the first time Biden has limited media access to a virtual high-dollar fundraiser, Bloomberg News noted, and it drew criticism from reporters covering his campaign who said it went against his pledge of transparency.
“This pool report was written based just on his opening remarks because your pooler was quickly kicked off the phone call when Biden said he was ready to take questions from any of the 25 donors present, a move that goes against traditionally covering these pooled fundraisers in their entirety,” NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor, the reporter representing news organizations who covered the event, wrote. “Also, reporters heard Biden over the phone, not through Zoom as has been common practice in the virtual campaign era.”
The event was hosted by the heads of three investment banking firms: Roger Altman of Evercore, Blair Effron of Centerview Partners and Deven Parekh of Insight Partners.
Biden said last year that he would open all of his big-donor fundraisers to the media, and his campaign team said at the time that the move reflected a “commitment to transparency.”
His campaign said Thursday’s fundraiser featured a “new format” when asked why reporters weren’t allowed to listen in to the question-and-answer portion, signaling Biden might limit press access in the future to court big-ticket donors. The campaign did not reply to HuffPost’s requests for a transcript of the questions or a list of those who attended the fundraiser.
“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. “But we will continue to ensure press access to our virtual finance events as part of our campaign’s commitment to transparency ― one that vastly exceeds anything that Donald Trump and his campaign have offered the American people.”
Reporters were able to listen to Biden’s opening remarks, during which he addressed what he called “anxious times” and lambasted Trump’s leadership throughout the pandemic that has infected more than 1.5 million people in the U.S.
“You know when Trump ran in 2016, he promised to stand up for the ‘forgotten man,’” Biden said. “As soon as he got elected, he sure as hell forgot them quick enough. Now we’re seeing the telltale signs of Trump-o-nomics in the way that he’s implemented this stimulus. No strings, no oversight, no [inspector general], no accountability, and is setting up what I would call a corrupt recovery.”
Trump does not usually allow reporters to report on his own fundraisers, but many in the Democratic race had pledged to open up their own fundraisers during the 2020 election cycle.
Biden has been aggressively fundraising since Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ended his own Democratic presidential bid, seeking to build a war chest to counter the sizable fundraising arm wielded by Trump. The former vice president raised more than $60 million in April with the Democratic National Committee.