White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer left the White House press corps shell-shocked after his first press briefing. The new Trump administration spokesman roared into the briefing room on a mission to rebut reports that the crowd size for President Trump’s inauguration may have been smaller than the crowd for President Obama’s. During his tirade, Spicer cited grass coverings that he claimed were used for the first time at Trump’s inauguration and D.C. Metro numbers showing higher turnout. Both arguments were easily refuted by the press shortly after the impromptu press briefing concluded. When the briefing concluded, Spicer refused to take questions from the press pool. While the briefing itself was unexpected, it did give us a glimpse into what journalists can now expect when covering the Trump Administration.
THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE WILL NOW BE HANDLING TRUMP’S PERCEIVED SLIGHTS
In the past, when a journalist or celebrity has gotten under President Trump’s skin, he has taken to Twitter with a hasty reply. While we can probably still expect this trademark behavior, it looks like Spicer will be using the briefing room to respond to issues that steam the new commander-in-chief. The White House press corps will have to work extra hard now to make sure that press briefings remain informative instead of going into the category of entertainment.
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WILL BE PRACTICING PROPAGANDA:
In previous administrations, the press has been kind enough to realize the role of spin in presidential administrations and has allowed the press secretary to give the administration’s “spin” on an issue without outright lying to the press. By lying to the press corps, Spicer has moved the Trump administration from spin into the territory of propaganda. This means reporters covering the administration are going to need to be equipped with the tools and skills necessary to weed out propaganda and report facts. CNN chose not to air the press briefing live, which may be a wise choice if the administration intends to lie to the public. It may be necessary to delay airing press briefings until proper fact checking can be completed.
THE PRESS MAY NEED TO “SEIZE THE DAY” WHEN IT COMES TO ASKING QUESTIONS:
If Spicer intends to conduct all of his press briefings by reading a statement and walking off stage without taking questions, reporters have two choices. They can refuse to cover the briefings and allow Spicer to speak to an empty room, or they can become much more rowdy by asking questions and talking over him until he acknowledges the questions. Reporters covering the White House don’t need to wait for an invitation to ask questions. It may be beneficial to bombard the new press secretary with questions and not allow him to get the statement out until he starts allowing questions.
THE TRADITIONAL “HONEYMOON” PERIOD HAS BEEN CALLED OFF
By choosing to berate the press and lie to the public right out of the hatch, the Trump administration has clearly stated that it does not wish to have a honeymoon period with the press and has set up an extremely adversarial relationship with them. In doing so, the administration gives the press no choice but to seek truth at all costs, whether they get the truth from the administration or in spite of the administration.