Was some part of this exchange scripted? Jonathan Swan of Axios tweeted this curious comment this morning before the briefing:
Source close to the White House tells me today's press briefing will be "must see TV." No more info than that but assume level 10 trolling.
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) June 27, 2017
What makes that odd is that Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s rant about the media didn’t happen at the top, when the press secretary issues a prepared statement before taking questions. It came in response to a question from Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering. Did Sanders script her rant beforehand knowing somehow that she was going to get a question about CNN’s humiliation over the Anthony Scaramucci story? Did she just assume she would? It’s worth noting that Swan has seemed in the past to have sources very close to Steve Bannon. And if there’s anyone in the West Wing (apart from the president himself) who might be apt to encourage Sanders to attack the media, it’s the guy who once called the press “the opposition party.”
Spiering asks a solid follow-up, though: If Russiagate is supposedly “fake news,” how are reporters supposed to cover meddling by a foreign power in the U.S. presidential campaign? And ironically, the “must see” part ended up not being Sanders’s ramble about the fake-news media but the exchange between her and reporter Brian Karem, who interrupted her to accuse her of demagoging the press. That wasn’t scripted, obviously. I wonder whether there was some strategic reason in choosing her to give today’s briefing instead of Spicer, especially if it’s true that her anti-media diatribe was to some extent pre-planned. Maybe the White House calculated that Spicer’s credibility in attacking the press is already shot; better to have the more likable Sanders do it and hope it gains traction. I think it fell flat, though, as there’s simply not enough righteous indignation in her delivery. If you want a press secretary who’ll go out there, crap on the press, and really own it, you’re better off with a conservative media pro like Laura Ingraham. Sanders is too low key.
Note, by the way, how she recommends everyone watch James O’Keefe’s new video of the CNN producer talking about Russiagate before adding that she can’t vouch for whether it’s accurate or not. That’s a weird thing to say in the course of lecturing the media about being sticklers for facts.
Wow. This entire exchange at the WH briefing. Must watch. https://t.co/ZxEEe6e31P
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) June 27, 2017