I hate to say it but call this a big win for the media. On Saturday, Donald Trump announced his plan to end daily White House coronavirus briefings or to limit his appearance at them. Taking to his favorite communication medium, Twitter, he explained the move in his own inimitable terms:
What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2020
The tipping point was Friday’s presser. The president cut the briefing short, taking no questions, after an unusually hostile White House press corps ganged up on him over questions he had raised about whether bleach and sunlight could be used to lessen the effects of COVID-19. The questions, which were based on information furnishedd by one of the health experts, were subverted by the media into phony claims that the president had recommended drinking or injecting bleach. (RELATED: Fact check: Did Trump tell Americans to ingest or inject bleach and disinfectant?)
According to Axois’s Jonathan Swan, “a number of Trump’s most trusted advisers — both inside and outside the White House — have urged him to stop doing marathon televised briefings”:
- They’ve told him he’s overexposed and these appearances are part of the reason polls aren’t looking good for him right now against Joe Biden.
- “I told him it’s not helping him,” said one adviser to the president. “Seniors are scared. And the spectacle of him fighting with the press isn’t what people want to see.”
Another source had a more optimistic take on the decision, stating that “there simply isn’t enough new material to justify Trump appearing before the press every day.”
The problem with stepping away from the podium is that in so doing Trump cedes the bully pulpit to imitators. The move is likely to be manna to Andrew Cuomo, in particular, who will attempt to fill the void with his daily appearances before a compliant media.
Meanwhile the media, who have been clamoring all along for Trump’s departure from the pressers, will claims this as a victory — rightly so.
I am not suggesting that Trump stay and fight the good fight, primarily because there is no good fight. The media have been unremittingly contentious almost from day one. (RELATED: WH press corps achieves new heights of rudeness with its ‘gotchas’ at COVID-19 briefing)
What he might consider doing instead of skipping the briefings altogether is avoid what Dr. Deborah Birx, has called “thinking out loud” while at the podium. It was likely a failure on his part to have fully processed information about the curative effects of sunlight, high humidity and temperatures, and disinfecting surfaces that led to last Friday’s massacre.