President Donald Trump made a last-minute appearance before the press in the Rose Garden to tout the latest unemployment figures, but viewers saw a difference from previous events: Reporters were placed closer together.
CNN’s Jim Acosta noted that chairs for the press originally were distanced apart as they have been for previous Rose Garden events during the coronavirus crisis. But they were moved just before Trump went on TV.
That raised objections from ABC News’ chief White House correspondent Jon Karl, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, who wrote on Twitter that it was “a flagrant violation of CDC guidelines on social distancing and a move that puts reporters at risk for the purpose of turning the press corps into a prop for a so-called ‘press conference’ where the president refuses to answer a single question.”
He later said in a note to WHCA members that “when we asked for an explanation, the White House press office told us the decision to move the chairs close together was made because ‘it looks better.'”
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Judd Deere, the White House deputy press secretary, said that it was his decision to move the chairs.
In contrast to Rose Garden events, the White House Correspondents’ Association assigns seats in the White House briefing room and has spaced reporters apart during the coronavirus crisis as a way to social distance.
Trump spoke for about 50 minutes, touting the latest unemployment report, which showed the rate dropping to 13.3%, as evidence that the jobs picture is improving. “Now the trajectory is great,” Trump said.
“We had the strongest economy anywhere in the world, and now we are going to have and economy that is even stronger,” he said.
The event was billed as a news conference, but Trump did not take questions, though some were shouted at him.
Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, asked him about figures showing that unemployment for black Americans and Asian-Americans went up in May. “How is that a victory?” she asked.
“You are something,” Trump said.
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