MAGA Media Wants To Make White House Briefings A Battleground
Ever since Sean Spicer made his laughable crowd size claim the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration virtually nothing about White House press briefings has been normal. Spicer and his successor, the combative Sarah Huckabee Sanders, didn’t much like answering pointed questions from the White House press corps. Sanders, who just announced her run for governor of Arkansas, so loathed the media she only held eight briefings in a 300-day span.
Then there was Kayleigh McEnany, who swore to the press at her first briefing that she would never lie to reporters from the podium of the James Brady briefing room. She then proceeded to do exactly that, dutifully reading canned answers from her three ring binder of talking points before slinking back home to Florida a week before Trump’s term ended.
President Joe Biden’s White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, has pledged to brief the press daily and has promised to drastically change the dynamic that’s existed for the past four years between the White House press office and the media. One challenge she is facing, however, comes from conservative news outlets like Fox News, OANN, Sinclair and Newsmax.
For example, Fox assigned the White House beat to Peter Doocy, whose father Steve is a long-time host of “Fox & Friends.” In his first opportunity to interact with Psaki, he chose to ask the clearly argumentative question about why the Bidens didn’t wear face coverings during a photo shoot at the Lincoln Memorial on inauguration day. During the campaign Doocy repeatedly peppered Biden’s spokespeople with questions about Hunter Biden’s laptop so his adversarial stance has been well telegraphed.
Another challenge facing Biden’s White House press team is figuring out who to allow into the briefings. Occupancy has been severely limited to the coronavirus. Currently only 14 of 49 seats are allowed to be filled. Major news outlets like the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS always can have their correspondents present. Outlets like OANN, Newsmax and others are pushing hard to be included in a rotating pool to attend, ostensibly to challenge Psaki and the Biden White House.
One of those looking for a seat in the room is Spicer, who now hosts a show on Newsmax. He has criticized the White House press corps for going too easy on Psaki in her early days, telling Politico, “It was an embarrassment for the press corps.” He has vowed to sharply question the Biden administration.
White House officials are sensitive to the argument that the press is taking it easier on Biden than it did on Trump. But they also stress that they aren’t worried about facing down pro-Trump hosts, including Spicer.
“Jen took questions from literal Russian propaganda outlets when she was the State Department spokesperson,” a White House aide said. “Former ‘Dancing with the Stars’ finalist Sean Spicer does not scare her.”