Friday’s press briefing with President Trump and his COVID-19 Taskforce was not only informative, but it was also downright entertaining. There was even a surprise guest, at least a surprise to the viewers. One moment that set the online universe on fire was when Peter Alexander of NBC made the mistake of accusing President Trump of lying to the public about the seriousness of the pandemic. He later tried to explain that he was tossing Trump a softball question, hoping the president would take the pitch and hit it out of the park by reassuring everyone that this crisis will pass.
Instead of taking the alleged softball question, Trump stopped the guy by commenting, “Such a lovely question.” Alexander asked about the “spin” Trump puts on his information about the pandemic and Trump isn’t stupid. He knows that is code in the Trump-hating media for bad Orange Man lies. I watched the press conference and here is what I saw – Trump answered the question about the uncertainty of the drug that is used in malaria treatment being a possible treatment for COVID-19. His voice was normal, he kept his cool. Then Alexander asked a follow-up question about what Americans who are scared should be told. “I say that you’re a terrible reporter”, Trump replied. Then he went on to tell Alexander he is putting out a “very bad signal” to the American people. He was firm in his criticism of the reporter’s question but didn’t raise his voice. His decimal level went up just a smidge as he accused Alexander of pursuing sensationalism, not journalism, and smacked NBC and Comcast (ConCast), too. C’mon. We all know there is no love lost between NBC and Trump.
Later, Mike Pence was asked the same question and responded in his normal manner – calm and reassuring. It’s what we expect from Pence. In this case, though, with the stress that everyone is under in dealing with the pandemic, I don’t think Trump did anything wrong. Alexander knew what he was saying when he said the word ‘spin”. President Trump isn’t a warm and fuzzy guy. He’s not a crier like the Bushes and he doesn’t bother with phony sounding empathy like Barack Obama or Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton. Trump just lets it rip. The pearl-clutching media who think everything is all about them, who often simply deliver opinions instead of actually delivering news to the public don’t cope well.
Later in the press conference, President Trump called on a reporter – “Yes, please, in the back” without identifying him or his news organization. The man who began to ask a question was Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary. What?
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer asks President Trump a question at the Coronavirus Taskforce briefing. pic.twitter.com/7NR16KYtsF
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 20, 2020
As you hear in the clip, Spicy asks about the timeliness of the financial assistance that will be offered to small businesses during this crisis, and then he asked about the appearance of possible insider trading by four U.S. senators after a briefing that included the likely severity of the approaching pandemic. Both questions were reasonable and professionally asked. Spicer returns to the White House briefing room as a reporter. He has a show on Newsmax. The reaction to Spicer’s new role in the briefing room is about what you’d expect from the anti-Trump press. Some are calling his appearance “surreal”.
Spicer now has his own political talk show for the conservative Newsmax TV outlet. By the time Trump entered the White House Briefing Room to address reporters Friday, Spicer was set to press his old boss for presidential reaction to small business anxieties and reports that senators unloaded stocks before a pandemic-sparked market downturn.
The surreal scene played out moments after the president castigated NBC’s Peter Alexander for suggesting that Trump may be giving Americans “a false sense of hope” about coronavirus treatment, asking what he would say to Americans who are scared or sickened by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Ultimately, Trump used Spicer’s questions to praise his administration’s response to small businesses hammered by the outbreak and defend senators who reportedly sold stock before markets tanked in response to the pandemic, though he made sure to call out only one of them — a California Democrat — by name.
“I saw some names. I know all of them. I know everyone mentioned,” Trump replied to Spicer. “Dianne Feinstein, I guess. And a couple of others. I don’t know too much about what it’s about, but I find them to all be very honorable people. That’s all I know. And they said they did nothing wrong. I find them — the whole group, very honorable people.”
Other reporters must have had to swallow hard to admit Spicer did well in his questions to President Trump. He has “a long way to go” to earn the confidence of other reporters was one reaction.
“It obviously made for a surreal scene to have the former White House press secretary, best known for lying about Trump’s inauguration crowd size, back in the briefing room and asking totally relevant questions,” said a veteran member of the White House press corps who asked not to be further identified. “He had more credibility today asking questions than he did answering them.”
A second longtime White House correspondent told The Daily Beast: “I thought it was interesting that the president didn’t call on him by name. That question had to be asked today. It was a legitimate question… I will say it felt very surreal.”
A third White House correspondent, however, was less than amused: “Spicer has a long way to go before he has the confidence of the rest of the White House press corps. His shameful record of repeatedly lying from the podium as press secretary helped usher in an era of gaslighting the public that won’t soon be forgotten. One day in the briefing room doesn’t erase that.”
Former White Press Secretary Sean Spicer is sitting in the WH briefing room seat that is assigned to OAN and Newsmax, @SallyBronston reports.
Spicer apparently has a show on Newsmax that launched earlier this month.
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) March 20, 2020
The most amusing reaction came from Playboy reporter Brian Karem. He may need a safe space to cope with the new guy in the room. He was shocked that Spicer was “allowed” to even be there.
It's taken some time. But @realDonaldTrump is successfully controlling the message about COVID-19 by limiting reporters access to this room and by planting his supporters among the press. https://t.co/VJdflaXrIs
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) March 20, 2020
There really is fake news in that room now. Remember what Spicer said, "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period," Spicer said.
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) March 20, 2020
You remember him, right? He’s the one who once asked Sarah Sanders how she slept at night knowing kids are in cages at the border. He also had his press pass yanked briefly by the White House for his part in a skirmish on the White House lawn during last year’s Easter Egg Roll. Good times.