Twenty two minutes later, he was finished.
A trend of truncated sessions? Better not try to predict with an unpredictable president.
But Trump’s nightly press briefings, some of which have stretched to more than two hours, have started to wear on some of his allies and supportive media figures.
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page deemed the press briefings a waste of time and “boring,” the latter being a favorite Trump word he often uses to dismiss media and political figures he doesn’t like.
Trump’s response was to the Journal was to lash out and call it “fake news,” while boasting about his ratings for the briefings. He wrote, “The Wall Street Journal always ‘forgets’ to mention that the ratings for the White House Press Briefings are ‘through the roof’ (Monday Night Football, Bachelor Finale, according to @nytimes) & is only way for me to escape the Fake News & get my views across.”
That’s not a sentiment shared by one of his bigger boosters.
Just hours after Trump sent out his tweet, The New York Times published a story on how some Republicans believe that the briefings are not helping him. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he told him that once-a-week briefings would be more effective, as he “sometimes drowns out his own message.”
Others have weighed in. After Trump’s attack on the Journal, Fox News political analyst Brit Hume tweeted back at the president with a suggestion, writing that the he “could stop talking much sooner” to give Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Coronavirus Task Force more time in the spotlight.
As relatively short as Trump’s appearance was on Thursday, it still illuminated some of the potential fault lines ahead at the White House — namely on when it will be safe and secure to reopen the country.
That decision is actually in the hands of many governors and mayors, who issued the patchwork of stay-at-home orders and other social distancing measures across the country, but the White House nevertheless has been influential in setting guidelines that have helped convince many Americans to take the threat seriously.
Media figures on the right, like Laura Ingraham, have been pushing for “reopening” on May 1, while public health officials warn of opening too soon.
A big question of just what level of testing will be necessary to do so.
At the briefing, CNN’s Jim Acosta asked whether a reopening can happen without a national testing system in place — at least to the levels that would make people feel safe to go back to work.
Trump replied, “We want to have it, and we are going to see if we have it. Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes. We are talking about 325 million people, and that is not going to happen as you can imagine.”
Later, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the task force, told reporters that the situation is likely to be a bit more complicated than reviving the economy all at once.
“It’s not going to be a one size fits all,” he said. “It’s going to be what is the kinetics of an outbreak? Is it on the way down? Is it essentially out? Is it still smoldering and possibly going up? I think you are going to have to take it individually.”
Meanwhile, news networks continued to take a varied approach of how to cover the briefing. Fox News carried it live, while MSNBC and CNN went back and forth from the White House to their anchors, who tried to add in doses of fact checking.
On CNN, political analyst Gloria Borger said that the question is how people go back to work “and make sure that this curve doesn’t start climbing that mountain again. And one way to do it is antibody tests, and make sure that people who go back to work are not going to infect anybody or are not in any danger of getting infected themselves. So this is something that has been argued about. It will continue to be argued about. And it’s very clear where the president seems to be coming down on this right now, which is, don’t slow down this train.”
One workplace where there has been significant testing is right there in the White House briefing room. For the first time, reporters and others who covered Thursday’s session were given Covid-19 tests, a higher level of precaution than previous measures to screen everyone with temperature checks. Speaking on CNN shortly before it began, Acosta said that they had not gotten the results back yet, but were told that “no news is good news.”
The message being conveyed to Trump is a variation on that: Less is more.
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