Jen Psaki Blames U.K.'s Boris Johnson for White House Reporter Chaos

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki blamed U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson for chaotic scenes in the Oval Office on Tuesday that led U.S. journalists to complain about being unable to ask questions.

Psaki addressed the issue during a press conference on Wednesday and appeared to pin the blame on the British leader for allowing reporters' questions without notifying the White House he had intended to do so.

American journalists took to social media to complain after White House aides shouted over their attempts to ask questions and they were ushered from the room despite two British reporters asking questions.

Psaki was asked about the incident on Wednesday by CBS News Senior White House and Political Correspondent Ed O'Keefe, who had been in the room and later discussed the event on Twitter.

"Well, I think, in that circumstance — and I think our relationship with the United Kingdom and with Prime Minister Johnson is so strong and abiding, we will be able to move forward beyond this—but he called on individuals from his press corps without alerting us to that intention in advance," Psaki said.

On Tuesday, Johnson and President Joe Biden were briefly available to the press in the Oval Office. The prime minister took questions from two British journalists, but as he was finishing an answer to a final question, White House aides began shouting and reporters were ushered out.

Several U.S. journalists tried to ask Biden questions despite the shouting and the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) later filed a formal complaint with Psaki.

CBS News Radio White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy is president of the WHCA. He asked Psaki on Wednesday to "shed a little bit more light" on the Oval Office incident.

"Did the president feel he was upstaged by the British prime minister yesterday?" Portnoy asked.

"I think the President has not spent a moment worrying about it," Psaki said.

Portnoy went on to ask when journalists would be able to ask Biden "substantive, pointed questions" about issues including the possible government shutdown and the collapse of bipartisan talks on police reform.

Psaki said part of Biden's role was engaging with the press and added: "I would note that he answered questions 135 times leading up to September; three times last week. And he'll keep looking for forums to answer the questions from all of you—something that he sees as vitally important to our democracy."

Engaging With the Press

Portnoy pushed Psaki on the issue of a Biden press conference.

"I'm not trying to diminish your ask for a formal press conference—which certainly, I'm sure, we will have another one—but I will convey to you that as it relates to providing information to the public, elevating the importance of the freedom of press to our democracy, that I don't know that the format, whether it is multiple shorter Q&As or a longer, formal press conference is at the top of the list of the American public's concern," Psaki said.

Newsweek has asked 10 Downing Street for comment.

Jen Psaki Delivers a Press Briefing
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a daily press briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on September 22, 2021, in Washington, DC. Psaki appeared to blame British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for an incident on Tuesday that led to reporters' complaints. Alex Wong/Getty Images