The era of banning media outlets from access to Donald Trump is over, declared Sean Spicer, currently the leading candidate for Press Secretary for the incoming administration. When Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked him why Trump would change his approach from the campaign, Spicer replied that “he understands the role of president and the role of the White House — that’s a vastly different view than being in a campaign rally that’s paid for the campaign, funded by him.”
Crisis averted? It might depend in part on whether Spicer sticks around. He makes it pretty clear that he wants a role in the administration, whether it’s Press Secretary or Deputy Administrator of Lawn Clearance, as Spicer jokes:
It’s worth noting that Barack Obama and his administration spent much of its first year attempting to delegitimize Fox News, at one point excluding them from the pool. To its credit, the White House press corps revolted at that attempt — the White House Correspondents Association credentials journalists, not the White House — and eventually Obama backed down. Trump wasn’t the first to attempt to exclude reporters, although it’s ultimately a self-defeating effort. Like it or not, the media will cover whatever it feels is important … and nothing is more important to the media than the media. If Spicer’s right and the Trump administration wants to avoid picking fights over access to the briefing room, so much the better.
On that note, Spicer also offered some reassuring words to those greatly concerned about the transition plans for, um, seating charts in the daily press gaggle at the White House in the Trump era. “I don’t think viewers care about who sits where in the White House briefing room,” Megyn Kelly quipped to Spicer in a moment of laughable understatement in last night’s Fox News interview, “but would you advocate for daily White House press briefings for the White House press corps?” Perhaps not daily and not all televised, Spicer replies, but there will be regular press briefings, and reform efforts will focus on finding a “more effective” manner to communicate if any changes are made at all.
Again, that’s an effort already begun years ago with Obama. In 2012, Obama bypassed the White House press corps so much that Jake Tapper (then with ABC) led another revolt in August, forcing the president to pay a little attention to those covering the beat. For the most part, though, Obama did local media — stations so grateful for the privilege that they mostly offered softball questions and allowed Obama to reach a greater number of occasional voters. However, they also offered the daily press briefings, which seems like a no-brainer to continue, on or off camera. It’s low-risk, low-cost, and with a skilled press secretary offers lots of opportunities to push a daily message.
Is Spicer the right person for that role? For a while, Laura Ingraham’s name came up most often, which would make sense if Trump wanted to continually challenge the media, but she understandably didn’t want to give up a lucrative and influential platform without a seat at the policy table. Kellyanne Conway has proven capable of handling the job, but doesn’t want it. Spicer has been performing as a de facto press secretary all through the transition and has done it well. He has good experience at the RNC, especially during the Republican convention this past summer in defending Trump, and has worked extensively with incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus. One has to wonder why Trump would choose to change horses, which is probably why Spicer’s name has come up so often of late for this post.
Speaking of the convention, here’s my interview with Spicer about plagiarism allegations from Melania Trump’s speech. Any man who can research “My Little Pony” to rally a defense is good enough to be my press secretary. Just sayin’.