White House has no plans to change Trump's coronavirus briefings as criticism mounts
Category: Entirely NewVia: tig • 10 months ago • 0 comments
By: Jason Miller (Washington Examiner)
First came some discussion of a pardon for Joe Exotic, the star of Netflix ratings winner Tiger King . And then, President Trump hinted he had secret dirt that would bring down sleepy Joe Biden.
It was only after an hour and 20 minutes of Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing, when most channels had switched away, that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the podium to unveil new guidance on getting critical workers back to their jobs.
Such episodes have prompted a chorus of questions about whether Trump’s daily appearances in the briefing room are the best way to keep an anxious public abreast of an unfolding crisis.
Key aides say there is no plan to shake up a strategy that has seen the president’s approval rate climb, even as one noteworthy ally warned the briefings now amount to a “wasted opportunity.”
The editorial board of the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal said it was time for a rethink.
“The public doesn’t care who among the governors likes Mr. Trump, or whether the Obama Administration filled the national pandemic stockpile,” the board wrote on Wednesday evening.
“There will be time for recriminations. What the public wants to know now is what Mr. Trump and his government is doing to prevent the deaths of their loved ones or help the family breadwinner stay employed.”
It suggested reducing the sessions to 45 minutes, making Vice President Mike Pence the kickoff speaker, and reducing Trump’s appearances to twice a week.
The piece was published minutes after Wednesday’s briefing had concluded.
Trump appeared for 57 minutes before leaving the briefing in Pence’s hands. During that time, he delivered a string of statistics on vital equipment sent to states and introduced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who provided an update on the repatriation of Americans from overseas.
But a Q&A session veered on to other topics, such as a question about Tiger King and why former President Barack Obama had not endorsed Biden for Democratic presidential nominee.
“Why isn’t he? He knows something that you don't know, that I think I know, but you don't know,” said Trump. “So, it'll be interesting.”
At other times, the president has floated ideas (quarantining New York, ending domestic flights, and touting an unproven treatment ) that have blindsided aides or been contradicted by his own experts on the podium.
But despite occasional frustration, aides say there are no plans for a change.
A key Trump ally who is familiar with White House thinking said the briefings offered prime television time when other campaigns were silenced. The strategy would remain in place so long as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued his briefings and likely until social distancing restrictions were lifted.
“The base is very receptive to these briefings and want to see him go toe-to-toe with reporters and hear how things are going on a day-to-day basis,” said the ally.
“I don’t see any change coming in how these briefings are conducted or the frequency before the country starts opening up."
Jason Miller, communications adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign and co-host of the War Room: Pandemic podcast, said journalists would regret complaining when the White House reverted to closed, scripted events whenever Trump leaves office. But he said there was room for a more nuanced approach.
“When President Trump has important news to announce, then he should be up there in the briefing to deliver it, and the networks should be covering it,” he said. “I don’t think President Trump needs to do it every day, but it is the most effective way for him to communicate how the government is working for the American people.”