White House Press Briefing: ‘Change in Atmosphere in Here’

March 12, 2019

Maybe another hopeful sign of the rolling times  — the White House press corp might finally be getting the hang.
In yesterday’s first press briefing in 42 days, Huckleberry Sanders discovered reporters were on the push-back and bullshitting wasn’t going to cut it.
Although I didn’t see the event live, a few clips of reporters and Huckleberry getting their dislike on during the question-and-no-real-answer segment made the political-blog rounds. News reporters at the briefing focused on the T-Rump being a lying, racist asshole, or words to that effect.
From yesterday’s NewStatesmanAmerica:

The tension between Sanders and reporters was so frosty by the end of the briefing that it led April Ryan, a veteran White House reporter, to note the “change in atmosphere in here.”

It was a very effective moment, and what it signals is that the White House press corps is changing its approach from an every-reporter-for-themselves attitude to a more cooperative one.
Of course, the White House briefing is political theatre: reporters showboat and Sanders and Trump lie to them.
Acosta especially has become known for his combative questioning style.
Every reporter has different stories they are working on, and different questions they need answering, and often the White House corps can be a herd of cats all trying to go in different directions.

Monday’s briefing was different: we finally saw how powerful a check on executive power the press corps might be if it worked together — at least, to the extent of following up on the most egregious times the White House’s representative dodges a previous question.
If we see more reporters repeatedly following up on unanswered questions, and persistently pressing for answers, it will at least change the tone of the political theatre, by highlighting the flagrant way the administration dodges responsibility, rather than just giving the White House an opportunity to repeat their lies.
Anything that makes it harder for Sanders to weasel away from acknowledging Trump’s more appalling pronouncements can only be a good thing.
Hopefully in the future we will see more briefings like this one.

Well, the first one in more than six weeks, but yet…
And just in case the rub goes off the rails and there’s back-up as today three Democratic lawmakers — two senators, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, along with  Rep. Eric Swalwell of California — reintroduced the Journalist Protection Act, which says “certain attacks on those reporting the news” is a federal crime:

The lawmakers said they were introducing the bill as a response to President Trump’s “climate of extreme hostility” toward the media.

“Both before and since taking office, President Trump has blatantly stoked a climate of extreme hostility toward the press,” the release said.
“He has called the press ‘the enemy of the American people,’ and described mainstream media outlets as ‘a stain on America.’
“Such antagonistic rhetoric encourages others to think, regardless of their views, that violence against journalists is more acceptable.”
Trump has often referred to the media as “the enemy of the people” while regularly evoking the phase “fake news.”

Swalwell first put forth the Journalist Protection Act (H.R. 4935) in February 2018, saying at the time: ‘“I really wish I didn’t have to introduce this, but we have seen rhetoric from the president declaring the media as the ‘enemy of the state.'”

(Illustration found here).

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