It has been 166 days since the last White House press briefing. This is an unprecedented and deliberate strategy by the Trump regime to deprive the press – and by extension the American people – of critical information regarding the affairs of the government that is supposed to be serving them.
The last press briefing was held by former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is now working for Fox News. The new press secretary is a two-time drunk driver with a shady resume, Stephanie Grisham, who has not held a single press briefing. You have to wonder why Trump even bothers to have a communications staff when they aren’t doing their job.
The argument from the White House is that Trump is his own best spokesperson and that he provides more frequent access to the media than they would have with conventional press briefings. There is some truth to that. Trump does address the press whenever he’s traveling to or from the White House. It’s generally an informal gathering on the West Wing lawn with the whirring of a helicopter in the background. Hence “Chopper Talk.” However, it might be more accurate to call it “Whopper Talk,” because all he does is lie and obstruct any kind of substantive dialog or dissemination of useful info.
These media scrums are not substitutes for real press briefings. They are lame versions of a reality show that Trump seems to think he’s still on. Reporters are not permitted to ask follow up questions, and often aren’t even allowed to get their initial questions out without Trump interrupting them. In many instances, Trump will call on a reporter, but when he gets the gist of the question will stop it and complain that he doesn’t like the question or the reporter asking it. Then he moves on to his next victim.
During this charade, it is usually impossible to hear the actual questions. So Trump’s answers are often disassociated from any intelligible topic. Not that his answers aren’t always incoherent, but without the questions, it makes it even worse. And when there is an exchange that is audible, Trump’s replies are littered with flagrant falsehoods. But the press isn’t able to point that out and require Trump to validate his often ludicrous assertions (like “China pays the tariffs” or that there is no recession, or his being “the Chosen One“). Jesse Watters of Fox News offered a helpful explanation for why Trump favors this method of dealing with the media (video below):
“What he does is this walk to Marine One. This is the way he kind of conducts the orchestra. He’s saying “No. Shut up. Stop with the asinine questions. And he kind of glides down the row and kind of conducts the press like a maestro. And it’s a brilliant performance.
Watters is actually complimenting Trump here. He thinks it’s a good thing when the President “orchestrates” his media avails so that only his spin is delivered, rather than truths the public can rely on. He praises the President’s “performance” as if this were all just playacting, rather than serious discussions that impact people’s lives. Watters also approves of Trump telling reporters to “shut up.” But it’s downright bizarre for someone on an alleged “news” network to celebrate a political leader for violating the First Amendment rights of the press. Watters continued saying that…
The other thing it does is, it removes the faces of the preening media reporters from the television. They shoot them from behind so they don’t get to stand up and really get their face on camera, and that shuts them down so they can’t pose.”
This is another example of Fox News applauding Trump for diminishing reporters and suppressing the value of their work and the importance of their contribution to democracy. At Fox, the only priority is propping up Dear Leader and maligning his critics. They have no respect for the media or the Constitution’s protection for it.
The same thing is true for Trump, who’s dismantling of the White House facility for communicating with the people is undemocratic and dangerous. And for that reason, the press should refrain from participating in the sham that Trump has concocted to replace real press briefings.
His predictable ranting is pretty much the same every time. He calls the media “the enemy of the people,” lies about what he said the day before, and brags about achievements that don’t exist in real life. Why should the press bother to show up for those sorts of soap opera theatrics? Just let him get on his helicopter and fly off to his next cult rally and tell those lies to his Deplorables.