Salon is reporting that Jennifer Psaki, the White House press secretary, is dealing with an unusual problem: a longstanding White House correspondent from an obscure Christian website that publishes little or no genuine reporting is complaining about not being able to access her personal office anytime he wants. This previously unreported West Wing drama has prompted the reporter to request an inquiry.
Matthew Anthony Harper, a former chaplain and self-appointed White House reporter for a little-known media organization called InterMountain Christian News, claims that his access to administration sources is being limited. Harper alleges this began last week and that he is now the victim of a “harassment” and “intimidation” campaign orchestrated by White House press aides.
“A Secret Service person was giving me a hard time, saying I couldn’t be there,” he told Salon in an interview, referring to Psaki’s office. He said the agent told him “that I didn’t have clearance,” adding that he was “confused about why I’m being banned from this.” That incident, Harper said, occurred last Wednesday, Sept. 15.
Following that event, Harper said that he is now required to move about the White House press area with a “escort,” something he claims no other reporter is required to do. Harper does not have a “hard” (permanent) press pass, and claims that the White House took this step as part of a deliberate “harassment and intimidation” effort by the Biden administration in response to his particular inquiries regarding “human rights.”
He added, “I know they’re singling me out.”
Harper feels that there is only one way to get to the bottom of this tangled story: a wide-ranging inquiry into suspected White House misconduct. He filed a formal “complaint” to Psaki and press office chief of staff Amanda Finney via email last Thursday, requesting that they examine their own operation.
“I’ve had unrestricted access without an escort to the Press Secretary’s office for almost 5 years but now after my continuing and challenging Human Rights violation questions, they are giving me this problem,”
Harper wrote in an email with the subject line “Christian media complaint.” He reiterated his claim that a Secret Service officer had given him a “hard time” and barred him from Psaki’s office unless he was escorted.
“It’s sometimes difficult to get appointments with any press secretary,” said longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem, now a columnist for Salon. “You have to do your job and keep working till you get what you need. I cannot fathom that anyone in that press office would just categorically dismiss any reporter.” As for the complaint filed by Harper, Karem said it struck him as “inappropriate.”
Other veteran White House reporters who talked with Salon, as well as other people familiar with the situation, said Harper was just recently barred from “floating” around Psaki’s office in the White House’s “upper press” area. That is not typical for reporters who do not have a hard press pass, which Harper does not have.
According to reporters who have attended several White House press briefings, Harper has periodically appeared during Q&A sessions in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. One, on the other hand, claimed to have never heard of him, while numerous others claimed to have never read any of his reporting.
Harper also lists himself as a White House reporter for Newsrael, an Israeli news service that looks to be a small-scale news aggregation site, with relatively few stories under his byline.
Harper has been a West Wing fixture for years, despite the fact that there is little indication that he is a professional news reporter of any kind. His most famous event in the White House may have occurred in July 2012, when he posed a somewhat perplexing “spiritual question” to Jay Carney, then-President Obama’s press secretary.
Harper told Salon, “I was very popular with the media that day. That was an electrifying experience.”
Other members of the White House press corps claimed Harper was notorious for asking unusually detailed and seemingly unrelated questions about Israel’s previous prime leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Harper explains his mission at the White House on his LinkedIn page: “In November 2001, I felt God calling me to establish a Christian News Source for our Treasure Valley Idaho/Oregon area beginning with our online ‘Christian Resources and Events Directory’ which later developed into the Treasure Valley Christian Newspaper and recently into the InterMountain Christian Newspaper covering the states of Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming and now Colorado.”
Harper defines himself as the InterMountain Christian News group’s co-founder, publisher, and president. Aside from a huge number of mediocre YouTube videos seen by only a few individuals, Salon’s investigation found no evidence of genuine reporting or other journalism generated by Harper and InterMountain.
Harper reportedly made his first appearance in the White House briefing room in the summer of 2011. During Donald Trump’s administration in 2019, he made a little media sensation by singing in the briefing room.
Mystery solved: Journalists in the White House basement and WH staff in workspaces behind the podium were very confused about who was loudly singinghttps://t.co/XXECX11YnQ
— Steven Nelson (@stevennelson10) December 12, 2019
Harper sent a query to national security advisor Jake Sullivan last month.