An analysis by the New York Times suggests that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has preferred questions from journalists representing non-traditional and center-right news outlets over mainstream journalists in his daily press briefings.
Historically, administrations have prioritized questions from journalists sitting in the first two rows of the briefing room, normally assigned to reporters representing mainstream media such as NPR, Associated Press, Fox News and Reuters. Spicer has avoided this tradition and has focused his attention more on “non-mainstream” journalists elsewhere in the briefing room.
In his first Q&A session on the job, Spicer granted the first question to a New York Post journalist who had written a book critical of the Clintons. His second question came from the conservative website LifeZette, founded by radio personality Laura Ingraham (who was also considered by Trump for the press secretary position). None of his first five questions in his first briefing were asked from the front two rows of mainstream outlets. He regularly gives priority during briefings to journalists from conservative-leaning titles such as Breitbart, Newsmax and One America News Network.
In comparison, former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ first five questions in the initial 2009 Obama administration press briefing went to journalists representing mainstream outlets from the first two rows in the seating chart: Associated Press, CBS News, NBC News, ABC News and CNN.
Speaking with Sean Hannity in January, Spicer defended his decision:
“There are voices and issues that the mainstream media sometimes don’t capture, and it’s important for those issues to get as much prominence as some of the mainstream ones.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association – not the administration — has doled out seating assignments in the Press Room since 1981. Additional reporters with no seat assignment stand in the aisles of the room or sit in empty seats.
Vice President Mike Pence blasted the news media on Wednesday for its coverage of the Trump administration, saying “if there was a honeymoon, it was pretty short.”
Blaming the media for a rocky start, Pence told conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh:
“I have to tell you that in all of my life, there was always a grace period. Right? New president’s coming in, I think they call it a honeymoon. Right? Where the media, like the others, gives the new administration a chance to come in and start to do what they do. And boy, if there was a honeymoon, it was pretty short. I sure don’t remember that.”
The vice president’s position that the media is taking an aggressive tone against the new administration is far more critical than that of President Trump, who has referred to CNN as “fake news” and has taken an aggressive stance against media stories critical of his actions.
CNN will no longer receive officials from the Trump Administration for on-air interviews and commentary, according to a report on Politico.
President Donald Trump has criticized CNN as “fake news” frequently since Election Day.
An anonymous White House official said “we’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda.” The official acknowledged the ban is not intended to be permanent.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the administration was freezing out CNN, noting that he continues to take questions from the network’s journalists during regular daily briefings. He also defended the administration’s decision not to send spokespeople to the network for on-air coverage.
“I’m not going to sit around and engage with people who have no desire to actually get something right,” Spicer said at an event at George Washington University on Monday.
In a recent interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” several former White House press secretaries issued warnings and concerns about the incoming Trump White House and its relationship with the media.
“We’ve just elected a man who bullies female reporters at his rally as an applause line,” said Nicole Wallace, communications director under former President George W. Bush. “We have just elected a man who started a hot war with a female anchor instead of attending a debate she moderated. We are in a new place. And I don’t think it’s good. And I don’t think it has any parallels to the past.”
Bill Clinton’s press secretary, Joe Lockhart, warned over Trump’s tendency to ignore or simply make up facts. “It’s somewhat Orwellian, which, you know, you redefine the past, which means you can define the present and the future,” Lockhart said. “And that’s going to be very difficult for both sides to come to grips with.”
Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary under Bush, addressed the mutual animosity between the press and Trump. Especially with public confidence in the press at historic lows, “the press has made itself vulnerable, because it lost the trust of their readers and their viewers — and Trump has widely taken advantage of it,” Fleischer concluded.
As the Obama transition out of the White House, we can start to gauge the impact of Michelle Obama on the office of First Lady and her role in American history.
From the outset, her status in history books was already assumed to be set: she would be the first African-American first lady.
But it is clear that her impact on society transcends and expands beyond just that single fact.
Entering the White House in 2009, Michelle made clear her first focus was on the Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, who were 10 and 7 at the time. Michelle’s initial travel and event schedule was quieter than prior first ladies, in order to allow her to spend more time with her daughters.
However, on a trip to London that year, Obama realized the influence and empowerment she could bestow through her position, especially with children and especially disadvantaged youth.
“If you want to know the reason why I’m standing here, it’s because of education. I loved getting A’s. I liked being smart. I loved being on time. I loved getting my work done. I thought being smart was cooler than anything in the world,” she said on that trip. This message would be the backbone of her message as First Lady throughout her time in the White House.
Obama started to “turn the needle” to spend time and effort with projects such as childhood obesity, education, veterans and military families, healthy eating, the Let’s Move! Initiative, and even creating a White House garden.
At the dedication of the garden, Obama said:
“This garden has taught us that if we have the courage to plant a seed, just be brave enough to plant it, then take care of it, water it, tend to it, invite friends to help us take care of it, weather the storms that inevitably come, if we have the courage to do that, we never know what might grow. Now that’s what this garden has taught me, to be fearless in those efforts, to try some new things, to not be afraid to mess up. Things we tell our kids all the time.”
Even when she becomes former first lady, Michelle Obama has cemented that message in the lives of millions of Americans and people across the globe.
Visitors can tour the White House year-round, though during the Christmas season welcomes people from around the globe to see a holiday celebration like no other.
The theme for this year is “The Gift of the Holidays,” reflecting on gifts that matter, including “service, friends and family, education and good health,” per the White House press release.
The White House has been transformed into a winter wonderland for the Christmas season, complete with over 6,000 ornaments, 8,000 bows and ribbons, 25,000 yarn pom-poms, and over 50 Lego gingerbread houses. The White House invited 92 volunteers from around the country to assist with decorating this year. Rafanelli Events designed the décor.
Guests will find the White House Gingerbread House weighing in at 150 pounds of gingerbread and 20 pounds of icing. A long-standing tradition during the Christmas season, first ladies Martha Washington and Dolley Madison made a soft version of this cake to treat visitors.
This year, only 10% of the decorations are new, with most being recycled or re-purposed from previous Christmas seasons.
If you wish to tour the White House yourself, you can visit the White House Visitors Office website for more information.
WHC Flashback to Ellis Schafer reflecting on the final Easter Egg Roll of the Obama administration earlier this year. Schafer is the Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Visitors Office.
Throughout the transition, much attention has been paid to those coming and going from Trump Tower in New York City. Among recent visitors includes executives and anchors from TV news, attending an “off the record” meeting with the president-elect.
Organized by Kellyanne Conway, the Trump campaign manager, attending networks include ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and Fox News. Spotted via a C-SPAN camera, notables such as CNN’s president Jeff Zucker and anchor Wolf Blitzer were in attendance. Also spotted was NBC News president Deborah Turness and MSNBC president Phil Griffin.
According to Brian Stelter, other meeting participants included NBC’s Chuck Todd and Lester Holt; CNN’s Erin Burnett; CBS’s Norah O’Donnell, Charlie Rose, John Dickerson, and Gayle King; and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, David Muir and Martha Raddatz.
The New York Times released a statement prior to the meeting announcing that publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. “and others are meeting with the President Elect tomorrow at the request of his team. There will be a small, off the record meeting first, followed by an on the record session with Times reporters and editorial columnists.”
A report on Politico also pointed out that even as he asked for a “cordial” relationship, Trump complained that NBC had used unflattering pictures of him.
But Trump also attempted to build the groundwork for a positive relationship between his incoming White House team and the media. One meeting participant said that a New York Post account – described as Trump giving the attending media a “dressing down” — was overstated.
However, Trump cancelled this morning’s “on-the-record” meeting himself over Twitter.
I cancelled today’s meeting with the failing @nytimes when the terms and conditions of the meeting were changed at the last moment. Not nice
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2016
Eileen Murphy, the top spokeswoman for the New York Times, said the paper “was unaware that the meeting was cancelled until we saw the President-Elect’s tweet this morning.”
During a Q&A session with National Journal, Mike McCurry, White House press secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency, suggested a new relationship between the incoming Trump administration and reporters, especially dealing with protective press pools and televised daily briefings.
Recently, the Trump transition team has breached protocol by travelling multiple times unannounced without his assigned press pool and by failing to notify reporters of the President-elect’s schedule.
Speaking about the protective press pools, McCurry said they can often be a waste of time.
“I think having a bunch of talented journalists sitting around a country club sipping Arnold Palmers while the president plays golf is an utter waste of time and a drain on news organization budgets that are already strained,” McCurry said, referring to where the pool normally works from while President Barack Obama is golfing. “So, yes, I think adjusting the terms of engagement for the protective pool makes sense.”
Instead of focusing on press pools that could result in reporters’ time spent on non-newsworthy information, McCurry called on the media to fight for more reliable access to senior transition and administration officials.
“The White House press corps should fight for things that really matter like access to senior officials, more openness when it comes to sharing of documents and regular ‘real’ briefings from senior decision-makers and staff,” McCurry said.
He also criticized the current state of daily briefings, stating they have devolved into stagesmanship instead of producing newsworthy information.
“The daily briefing has become less than helpful and I bear responsibility for that because I let it become a televised event. It should not be,” McCurry said. “It should be embargoed until completion and not carried ‘live’ except in unusual circumstances…like real news happening.”
For the second time in less than a week, President-Elect Donald Trump has again ignored precedent and protocol, travelling without the journalists assigned to cover him and his movements.
Hope Hicks, Trump’s press secretary, announced late Tuesday there would be no news or travel for the remainder of the day. However, later Trump secretly took his family to the nearby 21 Club restaurant for dinner.
A “protective pool” of reporters covers the activities of the president-elect for the media at large. This pool is overseen by the White House Correspondents Association, and is designed to guarantee the president is always covered while travelling.
WHCA President Jeff Mason has called on the president elect to agree to a “protective pool” during the transition. Not allowing this, he wrote, would be a “serious breach of historical precedent.”
In a released statement, Mason criticized the transition’s lack of allowing a pool of journalists to travel with the president-elect.
“The White House Correspondents’ Association is deeply concerned by President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to reject the practice of traveling with a ‘protective pool’ of reporters for his first visit to Washington since the election. In addition to breaking with decades of historical precedent and First Amendment principles, this decision could leave Americans blind about his whereabouts and well-being in the event of a national crisis. A pool of reporters is in place and ready to cover President-elect Trump. The WHCA urges President-elect Trump to allow it to do its job, including being present for motorcade movements, meetings, and other interactions. Not allowing a pool of journalists to travel with and cover the next president of the United States is unacceptable.”
@stuart_zechman The protective pool is always important to chronicle history, but especially in times of crisis. Like 9/11.
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) November 10, 2016