The ratings success of the White House’s on-camera press briefings are turning some White House correspondents into attention seekers hoping to become YouTube stars, Press Secretary Sean Spicer complained Wednesday.
President Donald Trump has spoken about Spicer’s daily briefings being the most popular program in daytime TV – an ominous sign for those who know Trump likes to be the star of his show. Similarly, a red flag went up this month among those who cover Trump when he joked-but-not that his son-in-law, Secretary of Everything Jared Kushner, had become “much more famous than me” during a meeting with congressional leaders. “I’m a little bit upset about that,” POTUS added.
Trump had said virtually the same thing in January about FBI director James Comey before hugging him at a law enforcement event, and we all know how that ended.
Sure enough, Spicer’s on-camera briefings have become more scarce: Tuesday’s was his first in eight days, following the previous day’s off-camera/no-audio gaggle. The press secretary explained that on days when the president speaks publicly, Trump’s will be the only voice coming out of the White House.
And Team Trump reportedly is considering whether to rotate press secretaries through the briefing cycle to keep any one person from becoming a star worthy of Saturday Night Live impersonation. Not coincidentally, it has been reported that the man Melissa McCarthy made the most famous press secretary ever is about to be moved upstairs in the Trump media-massaging department and successors are being interviewed.
“There’s a lot of them that want to become YouTube stars and ask some snarky question that’s been asked eight times,” Spicer told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on her LifeZette website. Ingraham is among those being interviewed as a possible Spicer replacement.
Spicer said it was the right of reporters to play to the cameras “but it’s our job to make sure that we’re providing updates and readouts of what the president is doing and the advances he is making on his agenda. And so there is a bit of snarkiness now with the press because, again, a lot of them are more focused about getting their clip on air than they are of actually taking the time to understand an issue.
“The nice thing about turning the cameras off sometimes … is that you end up having a more substantive discussion about actual issues because they’re not trying to get their clip,” Spicer added. “They’re not trying to figure out, ‘How do I get on TV? How do I ask some snarky question?’ You can actually focus on the substance of the issues.
“We made that clear, from the beginning,” Spicer added, “that in a variety of ways we are going to look to do things differently, to do things better. And this is one area that we’ve done that. And we talked about it literally from the beginning.”
White House correspondents, meanwhile, have argued that on-camera briefings are important because getting the press secretary in front of cameras is the best way to hold an administration accountable. They have not, so far as we know, offered to keep cameras trained on Spicer only at briefings.