White House Vetted Participants in Biden Live Immigration Chat

Image: White House Vetted Participants in Biden Live Immigration Chat

Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 08:05 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Participants in a recent live Skype chat with Vice President Joe Biden on immigration reform were pre-selected and vetted by the White House, despite the event being billed as a chance for anyone to speak with him directly.

According to Politico, Skype preselected participants and submitted the list to the White House to review. Initially, Skype spokesman Chaim Haas told Politico that "a bunch" on the list were ultimately rejected.

"They rejected a bunch and then the others were used."

But then Haas later emailed Politico to say that he was mistaken, that only one person on the list was actually removed.

Haas said Skype selected people that are active in the immigration debate and did not know who at the White House was responsible for reviewing participants.

"It was less the questions being asked; it was the people who we had proposed for the live questions that they didn't like," Haas said initially.

A Biden aide said the vice president was not aware of what questions would be asked or who would be asking them, and that the vice president's office was only concerned about eliminating one participant who was a Capitol Hill staffer.

"MSN/ Bing controlled every aspect of the Skype chat, including the selection of the moderator, participants and questions asked," the aide said. "The vice president's office never saw a question in advance of the chat. Skype selected the panelists independently and the vice president's office only raised a concern about one potential panelist because she was a Democratic Hill staffer."

That staffer was not allowed to participate in the chat.

The online event, which also included White House domestic policy chief Cecilia Munoz, was part of the administration's strategy to renew interest in the immigration debate after momentum for reform stalled in the House.

During the event, Biden called on House Speaker John Boehner to schedule a vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June.

"He is unwilling to let the House speak, he is unwilling to let the House vote," Biden said, according to Politico. "John Boehner, call up the bill."

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