Next time somebody tells you how important local journalism is to democracy I’d like you to think about my first and maybe last experience with President Joe Biden’s White House press team.
In a Jan. 21 email I asked White House regional communication director Seth Schuster three simple questions.
I wrote, “A recent story in the local daily paper raised questions about President Biden’s religious background. I’m writing a column to hopefully clear up any confusion about the president’s roots in the Catholic Church.
Did Joe Biden get baptized in Scranton? If so, where and when? Who are his godparents?
Thanks for your help in this matter.
I look forward to a good working relationship in the future.”
On Feb. 3 I contacted Angela Perez who responded to my first White House inquiry and directed me to Schuster, who handles media inquiries from Scranton. I said I had not heard from Schuster and also had another question.
I wrote, “The Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick is a male-only organization where the President appeared three times as the featured speaker.
Will President Biden continue to endorse this group’s ban on women? Will he attend a future dinner if he’s invited? Will the president support Vice President Kamala Harris and all other women who might one day want to attend this discriminatory annual dinner where about 1,500 men, all political and business leaders, attend, campaign and do business?”
Perez got back to me at 1:10 pm the same day.
“I will flag this for him, again,” she wrote.
Schuster got back to me at 4:44 pm the same day.
He wrote: “Apologies for not getting back to you. It’s been an absolute flood over the last few weeks and some inquiries have regrettably slipped through the cracks. I’m glad you reached back out to Angela to get ahold of me.
As for your request – I don’t have any information on that matter right now, but if I learn of anything, I will circle back.
Be sure to contact me on any further inquiries and I’ll do my best to help. Thank you.”
Schuster never circled back.
I asked Schuster in an email the same day, “Will you obtain answers to my questions? If so, when? As I told Angela, I will be writing regular columns that relate to the President and his connection to Scranton.
The baptism issue matters because of history.
The gender issue matters because of human rights, the President’s commitment to equality and the gender of the Vice President.
Many people in Scranton take these issues seriously.”
One scrappy kid from Scranton to another, I hoped Biden would understand the value of a response from him and his staff. After all, he issued a statement about his crack press team shortly before taking office.
“Restoring faith in government by speaking honestly and directly to the American people will be a hallmark of my administration,” Biden said.
“Our communications and press staff are integral to this effort and are committed to building this country back better for all Americans. I’m proud to have them serve the American people in the White House.”
Schuster never responded with answers to my questions.
I tried again.
In a Feb. 16 email to Schuster with a copy to Perez, I wrote, “No need to immediately respond to my questions concerning the simple details of President Joe Biden’s baptism in the Roman Catholic Church. The big picture historic context of this issue still matters but pales in comparison to my most recent inquiry.
Does President Biden still endorse the sexist Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick all-male dinner where he has appeared three times as featured speaker?
Does President Biden believe Vice President Kamala Harris should be banned from this dinner as a featured speaker simply because of her gender?
Does he plan to send a video to this year’s March 17 dinner? Has anybody from this organization that discriminates against women asked him to say a few words on the group’s behalf?
Fighting and defeating sexism and discrimination are crucial cornerstones of President Biden’s vow to heal the soul of America.
I can think of no better place to start than Scranton.”
We even have a new mayor who is the first woman mayor in the city’s 165-year history.
Again Biden’s White House press staff ignored my concerns about sexism.
A week ago, on Feb. 17, I sent Schuster and Perez a reminder that Biden had made Scranton the center of the political universe. I said I would be writing regular “Greetings from Scranton” columns centering on the president’s relationship with those of us who live here and voted for him.
Again, nobody responded.
On Monday I wrote my last email to Perez at the White House.
“I read with great interest recent news of the White House Gender Policy Council.
This initiative is one reason I contacted you and Seth Schuster on Feb. 16 with questions about President Biden’s position on the Lackawanna County Friendly Sons of St. Patrick annual all-male dinner.
I’m perplexed why you have not responded to my inquiry.
President Joe Biden made his hometown of Scranton the center of the political universe. All public policy roads lead here. Yet, gender discrimination pervades Scranton’s political and business culture.
Here’s my Feb. 17 column about the Friendly Sons’ sexist attack on equal opportunity.
I plan to focus on President’s Biden’s position on this crucial matter in another column later this week.”
That’s the best I can do for now.
Scranton doesn’t matter as much to Biden and his staff as he and they would like us to believe.
Build back better?