As I mentioned last week, Donald Trump all but announced that the White House daily briefing with
Mouth of Sauron Sarah Huckabee Sanders is dead, and won't be coming back.
President Trump said Tuesday that he directed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders “not to bother” with press briefings because he believes that reporters are rude to her and that most members of the media will not cover the administration fairly.
Press briefings, which used to be a near-daily occurrence, have become a rarity in the Trump White House. Sanders has not provided an on-camera briefing for more than a month, including the duration of the partial government shutdown.
“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,” Trump said on Twitter. “I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway! Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News!”
Of course, Trump still needs to catapult the propaganda, so White House briefings now take place almost exclusively on the FOX Trump State Media Channel.
“It’s generally, like, you just watch Fox and run outside,” says a White House correspondent.
Keeping tabs on the No. 1 cable-news network helps fill a basic need for White House reporters: Quotes, feedback, clips, audio. That’s because officials like press secretary Sarah Sanders and counselor Kellyanne Conway are highly partial to doing live interviews with Fox News. From the start of the government shutdown (Dec. 22) until last Friday, Sanders did eight interviews on Fox shows of one sort or another (including Fox Business and “Fox News Sunday”) and two on other networks, including an appearance last Friday on CNN, according to Media Matters for America.
These sessions often force Sanders & Co. out of their White House lairs and into the crosshairs of the mainstream media. If the White House press corps, for example, learns that Sanders is doing a “Fox & Friends” interview on the White House lawn at 8:15 a.m., it can take up positions nearby in the hope of lobbing a few questions once she’s done. In an interview on “Fox & Friends” last Wednesday, Sanders herself referenced the arrangement: “I stopped last night after I finished an interview where I took questions. ... I’m sure I’ll do that again here in a few minutes,” she said.
Newshounds are familiar with the Q-and-A sessions that Sanders referenced. The White House official walks up to a cluster of waiting reporters, cameras and microphones and takes a number of questions.
Those opportunities, however, don’t just drop from the gloomy winter sky. Someone has to figure out when Sanders is going out to chat with Fox News. Then someone has to hustle the equipment out the door and set it up. And then someone has to make sure that Sanders, once she’s done with her interview, presents herself to take questions before ducking back into the White House.
“They regularly are on Fox and because they have to come out on the driveway ... If you want on-camera answers to your questions, you have to set up on the driveway,” says Eamon Javers, a White House correspondent who has been with CNBC since 2010. White House reporters can enter the offices of White House communications staffers — Sanders and Hogan Gidley, for example — but they can’t run their cameras in those areas. Outside, though, is fair game. According to Javers, the reportorial scrum formerly shadowed White House officials as they walked back inside from their TV interviews, but that got messy: Cameras and audio equipment and bodies often got tangled up. So the crew established a beachhead of sorts on the driveway near the spot where the officials reenter their workspace.
White House reporters have long chased officials around the complex, of course. These days, though, it’s a higher-stakes proposition. “In past years, you’d see a handful of reporters buttonholing administration officials back and forth to live shot positions. But now, it feels like the bulk of the White House press corps is trundling after nearly every official who comes out on the driveway,” says Javers. Such are the exigencies of these times: Sanders’s absence from the lectern has helped the Trump White House establish an all-time record lapse in on-camera briefings. "Look, we’ll see what happens,” she said when asked on “Fox & Friends” whether she was done with this former staple of White House accountability. Gidley, for his part, said on Fox News that his colleague Sanders would resume briefings “when she finds a reason to do that.” Apparently she hasn’t yet found the informing-the-public reason.
Nor will she ever have to do so, especially if the media is going to play along completely and allow her to get away with being relegated to FOX's sloppy seconds.
At this point, FOX News is all but State Media in name, and increasingly they are the only game in town.