After just over two years in office, President Donald Trump’s White House has clearly decided that the televised White House briefing – a regular staple since Bill Clinton came into office – is no longer needed, as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has not formally taken questions from reporters at the podium in the Brady Briefing Room in over a month.
“I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway!” President Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
Before the briefings became a daily televised event in the Clinton Administration, White House briefings were mainly what’s known as ‘pen and pad’ gatherings – that is, no television, no radio recording, a throwback to the days when newspaper and magazine reporters dominated those covering the White House.
The number of briefings dwindled throughout 2018 – for example, Sanders held only three in July, only once in both November and December.
The last formal briefing was on December 18.
Critics of the briefings say it’s become a place for reporters to grandstand – the President in his tweet today said reporters acted ‘rudely’ – but it’s also been an important venue over the years for a President, in order to get out the message of that administration.
Before the Clinton White House – with Communications Director George Stephanopoulos and Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers – made the briefing into a daily televised event which kept the focus on the White House, standard procedure allowed for only a few minutes of televised proceedings at the start of a briefing.
After about five minutes, the TV lights would be turned off, the microphone would go silent, and the briefing would continue to be on the record, but not for broadcast.
The White House Correspondents Association on Tuesday urged the President to reconsider.
While Sanders has not been on television much in recent months, the President has made himself available repeatedly, often entertaining questions as he departs the White House, or in photo opportunities with reporters.
Mr. Trump has held only two formal, solo news conferences; the last one – the day after the November elections – included a verbal showdown with CNN reporter Jim Acosta.