Earlier today White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced he is exiting in his role after serving the Trump administration in that role since the inauguration in January of this year. He will fulfill his position through August. This ends what has been a rocky road as press secretary for Spicer, who began his time amidst disagreement over the estimated crowd size at the swearing in event. His sparring with reporters has led to the briefings themselves becoming news instead of sources for them.
On 26 June 2017, in a truly historic event, Spicer went so far as to ban video cameras and then audio recordings, from the daily briefings.
While there have been attempts to capture at least portions of the briefings, they have been few in number and the press corps is for the most part following the White House dictum. In a recent Washington Post online article, news and media reporter Callum Borchers revealed a two-part stream from a briefing by attendee Ksenija Pavlovic. (Read Borchers piece: A reporter broke White House rules). As the one month mark of the ban arrives next week, along with the announcement of a new press secretary, many are wondering if the briefings will change direction.
Unfortunately, it looks like there will bee no change in the briefings. As recently as yesterday, Sanders confused reporters during the 20 July 2017 briefing when she placed visual aids up on the monitors for her talk on Trump’s proposed MAGAnomics economic growth plan. While the dichotomy of the White House creating and presenting images that they do not want recorded taxes the logic of most people, there are far deeper concerns over the continued banning of electronic broadcasting and recording equipment from use by the press corps. They stem directly from the statements made by Trump for quite some time pitting himself against a (his words) “fake news” free press.
The U.S. Constitution specifically calls for a press that is allowed to operate unhindered by laws created by the government. The Bill of Rights contains the 1st Amendment which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
While it is true that the rule is a White House rule and not a law passed by Congress, the abridgement of the press is arguably still occurring. This is added to a very selective process already being used by Trump and the White House to invite media outlets to events and special news opportunities. The conservative outlets are getting the nod over liberal or centrist ones regularly now. When the modern media (including print due to their online presence) depends heavily on the collection of both audio and video recordings, then any ban of that technology impairs or entirely impedes the ability of the free press to operate.
Business as usual
In a 20 July 2017 press briefing Sanders again barred the press from using the basic technology tools they need to report on White House actions. It is amazing to think of a room of 21st century reporters with cameras and recorders off and phones sitting idle in their pockets, but it is the case. The precedent has been set and thus far no one has challenged the White House on it to gain some form of reversal or injunction. In fact, acceptance seems to have come from the acquiescence.
In a story by Rosie Gray in The Atlantic on 20 June 2017, the presence of an eerily glib Steve Bannon made itself felt. When asked for a reason behind the ban, Gray reports that Bannon (Trump’s controversial advisor) replied “Sean [Spicer] got fatter.” You can read the rest of the story by Gray here The White House Press Briefing Is Slowly Dying. Bannon’s ties to Breitbart News have long caused people concern and his open racism even more. Is this part of an overall plan to remove the White House from the media’s view entirely? It is quite possible.
With a new White House press secretary, the media outlets might have had hope for some changes, but it is beginning to look like that is not the case. There will be more to come on this story and a look at Sarah Huckabee Sanders next week.
COMING UP on next week’s CLC news pod cast:
- Where in the World is Steve Bannon?
Trump’s illusive advisor was in the news prominently at first but has seemingly dropped below the radar…