Did White House ‘Threaten’ Media Over Joe Biden Impeachment?


Last week House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced an official impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden related to his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings.

House Republicans have for months scrutinized bank statements, emails, and other records, for information that could tie the president to his son’s financial ventures abroad.

Controversy around the impeachment inquiry has also led to an extraordinary intervention from the White House, according to Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, who said it threatened journalists not to cover the investigation.

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the United Nations General Assembly Leader’s Reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on September 19, 2023. Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz claimed that the White House threatened U.S. media not to cover the presidential impeachment inquiry.
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

The Claim

A post on X, formerly Twitter, by Matt Gaetz, on September 14, 2023, viewed 234,500 times, claimed that the White House had threatened the media about covering the Joe Biden impeachment inquiry.

“The White House is directly trying to THREATEN media outlets from covering Joe Biden’s corruption,” Gaetz wrote.

“They want no mention of the bank records, travel logs, devices, communications, bribes, and more that builds this massive case for impeachment.”

The tweet included an interview with Gaetz on Newsmax during which the Congressman said the White House was trying to “censor” the story.

“Remember back when the Hunter Biden disinformation letter came out?” Gaetz said.

“We had the laptop that had all this evidence of corruption on it, and the White House and the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

“They were all trying to get media companies to censor it. And you see, this is that same play that they’re running again.

“But now they want no coverage of the corruption, of the bank records, of the travel logs, of the devices, of the communications, of the threats, of the bribes, all of the things that build the evidence for this massive case that we have.

“They’re trying to really deter coverage by sending a threat from the White House. It’s quite something.”

The Facts

Gaetz claim that the White House threatened reporters is wrong.

The memo referred to was sent to the U.S. news organizations on September 12, 2023, from Ian Sams, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor and Spokesman
for White House Counsel’s Office, about the impeachment inquiry.

However, the memo contains no threats about covering the impeachment. Instead, it details the White House’s misgivings about the inquiry itself.

It contains a number of on-the-record statements from Republicans doubting the quality or lack of evidence driving the impeachment inquiry, and asserts the White House position that the grounds for the inquiry are “baseless.”

“It’s time for the media to ramp up its scrutiny of House Republicans for opening
an impeachment inquiry based on lies,” the memo read.

“When even House Republican members are admitting that there is simply no evidence that Joe Biden did anything wrong, much less impeachable, that should set off alarm bells for news organizations.”

While the letter encouraged reporters to investigate House Republicans for opening the inquiry, it contains no threat of censorship, injunction, or other tool by which the White House would stymie the right of journalists to report impeachment proceedings.

The White House believes there are no grounds, but there is nothing in the memo that threatens journalists not to mention “bank records, travel logs, devices, communications, bribes, and more that builds this massive case for impeachment” as Gaetz claims.

Newsweek has contacted a media representative for Matt Gaetz and the White House via email for comment.

The Ruling



The White House memo did not threaten journalists over covering the Biden impeachment inquiry.

The memo, sent on September 12, encouraged U.S. news organizations to scrutinize House Republicans for opening
an impeachment inquiry, adding its argument there was no evidence for an investigation.

However, it contained no threats telling journalists not to cover the story, as Gaetz has claimed.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek’s Fact Check team


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