White House press briefings a thing of the past

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

Fifty years after its debut to the American people, The White House Press Briefing Room sits unused by the journalists for which it was created.

The Press Briefing Room was built in 1969 during the presidency of Richard Nixon and replaced the White House’s indoor swimming pool. Over the last half century, the Press Secretaries have stood at the podium delivering reports which topics have ranged from Watergate, assassination attempts and the daily actions of the sitting President.

In 1995, President Clinton’s Press Secretary Mike McCurry allowed cameras inside the press briefings for the first time, and the room was most recently renovated during the second term of George W. Bush.

It’s these press conferences is to inform the public of certain tasks that the government is facing or have been completed. However, since March 11, 2019, The White House Press Office has not held a press conference to detail the decisions of the Trump Administration.

Early in the Trump Presidency, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer notably engaged in heated discourse with journalist April Ryan, a White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio, after Ryan asked a question concerning the “image” of the administration.

“April, hold on, it seems like you’re hell-bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays,” Spicer said, before telling Ryan to “Stop shaking your head.”

Spicer received much criticism for his aggressive tone towards Ryan and it continued the trend of Press Office officials having a tense relationship with reporters.

In November 2018, CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta had his press credentials revoked after continuing to ask President Trump questions about comments he made concerning immigration which led to a brief scuffle with a Press Office Aide. Trump proceeded to berate Acosta, saying “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee Sanders is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”

The incident progressed into a court battle that led to Acosta having his credentials eventually restored.

Now months after the last press briefing, journalists fear that White House officials are attempting to avoid transparency with the public, especially considering several allegations of misconduct and corruption by President Trump and senior level officials.

According to President Trump, the combative nature between reporters and the respective press secretaries contributed to the end of briefings.

In January, Trump tweeted, “The reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the ‘podium’ much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately, in particular certain members of the press. I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway!” His tweet ended with another claim of  “Fake news.”

Current White House Press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham, echoed the President’s criticism of the press, saying “The fact that the White House press corps can no longer grandstand on TV is of no concern to us.”

Despite assuming her role in July, Grisham has yet to act in her official capacity at the press room podium. This causes many journalists to wonder not only what the White House is hiding, but will the connection of journalist being able to communicate with the President be revoked for the rest of the term.

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