As it turns out, President Donald Trump’s decision to abruptly halt on-camera press briefings isn’t without precedent.
In 1993, during the first year of then-President Bill Clinton’s administration, the White House stopped hosting on-camera press briefings because — according to then-White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers — they just weren’t necessary.
“I think that that was something that we did in the first week or two — I can’t remember exactly when we stopped it,” Myers told C-SPAN in a recently discovered clip from March 1993. “It was a new administration. I think we wanted to talk about what was going on here.”
She went on to tell the host that the White House determined it “wasn’t really necessary” to host daily, on-camera press briefings. Myers noted that, in lieu of airing the entire briefing, the Clinton administration would only be broadcasting the first five minutes of the daily briefings from fellow communications aide George Stephanopoulos.
“The briefing is more an opportunity to exchange ideas and to have a conversation about what’s happening,” Myers explained. “That wasn’t really happening as productively as we had hoped.”
The then-press secretary said the White House would continue holding three briefings — one in the morning, one midday, and one in the evening. Those, however, were “just not for cameras,” Myers said.
News of the clip from the ’90s comes as the current White House administration has largely drawn back the number of press briefings held on camera.
In response to the decision from the Trump administration to halt on-camera briefings, CNN, whose reporters have had a contentious relationship with the White House, brought in Supreme Court sketch artist Bill Hennessey to document Friday’s question-and-answer session with press secretary Sean Spicer.
CNN sent Bill Hennessy, the network's regular Supreme Court sketch artist, to the White House briefing today.… https://t.co/29pK5MZFEA— Brian Stelter (@Brian Stelter)1498245594.0
On Tuesday, the White House held its first on-camera press briefing in one week with principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders taking questions from reporters.
Reporter Brian Karem used the briefing to slam the Trump administration and Sanders for launching a diatribe against “fake news” after three CNN journalists resigned over a since-retracted story accusing Trump transition team member Anthony Scaramucci of having connections to a Russian investment bank.
“You’re inflaming everyone right here, right now with those words,” Karem said. “[Y]ou have been elected to serve for four years at least — there’s no option other than that. We’re here to ask you questions. You’re here to provide the answers.
“What you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look and say, ‘See, once again, the president’s right and everybody else out here is fake media,’” he continued. “And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.”
Sanders disagreed, blaming the media — not Trump — for making the situation worse, because of reporters’ “dishonesty.”
Reporter goes after Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sanders after she spent several minutes decrying "fake news" and anonymous sources pic.twitter.com/abaGGg0q4j
— Steve Kopack (@SteveKopack) June 27, 2017