In an unprecedented move, Donald Trump’s incoming White House Press Secretary revealed Sunday that members of the alternative media, and even prominent bloggers may be allowed to join the White House Press Corps, and take part in press conferences in Washington.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Sean Spicer, said that owing to “off the chart” interest in the Trump administration, the president-elect is thinking about relocating press briefings to a room with a larger capacity.
Since 1970, all official press briefings have been held in the James S Brady room. Esquire magazine reported that the potential new venue could be the Old Executive Office Building, to the west of the White House.
“I know change is difficult sometimes,” Spicer said. “But sometimes change can actually be better.”
“There’s a lot of talk radio and bloggers and people that can’t fit in right now and maybe don’t have a permanency because they’re not part of the Washington elite media,” Spicer added.
“But to allow them an opportunity to ask the press secretary or the president a question is a positive thing. It’s more democratic.” he urged.
The reaction to Spicer’s comments from the Washington establishment has been predictably one of panic and alarm.
The White House Correspondent Association (WHCA) which oversees which media outlets are allowed to attend press briefings, said it would push against the idea of involving less traditional media.
Jeff Mason, the WHCA president and Reuters White House correspondent, said that in a “constructive” meeting with Spicer, he had “emphasized the importance of the White House press briefing room” because of how near it is to West Wing officials.
“I made clear that the WHCA would view it as unacceptable if the incoming administration sought to move White House reporters out of the press work space behind the press briefing room,” Mason said in a statement. “Access in the West Wing to senior administration officials, including the press secretary, is critical to transparency and to journalists’ ability to do their jobs.”
“We object strenuously to any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps,” Mason said.
The Guardian, which is one of the only 49 outlets represented in the press Corps, published a report expressing derision over the idea of both Breitbart and Infowars having representatives allowed to ask the President and other officials questions.
The report suggested Breitbart was “racist” and made claims, repeatedly disavowed by Alex Jones, that he believes the Sandy Hook massacre to be a fake hoax:
The president-elect’s campaign drew consistent support from numerous conservative talk radio hosts and internet conspiracy theory sites, for instance Alex Jones’s InfoWars. During the campaign, Trump took the unprecedented step of appearing on Jones’s site, known as America’s foremost conservative conspiracy theory outlet. Jones has previously dismissed the Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 elementary school students and six school staff were murdered, as “completely fake”, and has branded the September 11 terror attacks an “inside job”.
Trump was interviewed for around 30 minutes by Jones in December 2015, and later called Jones a “nice guy”. Jones claimed in November that Trump called him to thank him for his support after winning the presidential election.
In a related development, outgoing President Obama slammed the “corrosive nature” of talk radio and what he described as “fake news,” while throwing BOTH Trump and Hillary Clinton under the bus.
“You had two of the most unpopular presidential candidates selected by the two parties in history. Doesn’t that say something’s wrong, something serious is wrong?” CBS anchor Steve Kroft asked.
“It indicates that there is a lot of cynicism out there,”Obama responded, adding “It indicates that the corrosive nature of everything from talk radio to fake news to negative advertising has made people lack confidence in a lot of our existing institutions. I think it indicates, at least on the Democratic side, that we’ve got more work to do to strengthen our grassroots networks.”