Sean Spicer has allowed cameras into only five of his last fifteen press briefings. It’s a trend that has many reporters ruffled, and on Monday, CNN’s Jim Acosta and other reporters called him out on it. Audio of the entire briefing was released by many media outlets after it concluded.
Among those reporting on the incident is The Hill, who describes the incident as beginning with Jim Acosta yelling a question in which he asked whether President Trump still thought the healthcare bill was mean. Sean Spicer ignored him. He followed that up later with, “The camera is off, Jim.” This is likely a comment related to a suggestion the press secretary made recently that he believes that reporters sometimes ask questions in order to try to cause a scene so they can become YouTube stars. It’s also the reason Spicer gave to Fox News recently for reducing the frequency of televised briefings. Acosta continued pushing Spicer on the issue by suggesting that the cameras be turned on.
“Maybe we should turn the cameras on, Sean, why don’t we turn the cameras on? Why not turn the cameras on? They’re in the room, the lights are on!”
Business Insider reports that Acosta later continued the exchange by asking Spicer by asking whether the White House would continue to limit television broadcasting of daily press briefings.
“Why are the cameras off, Sean? Why did you turn them off? Can you just give us an answer to that? Can you tell us why you turned the cameras off? It’s a legitimate question. You are a taxpayer-funded spokesman for the United States government. Can you at least give us an explanation for why the cameras are off?”
Other reporters asked for clarification on the camera ban, and Sean Spicer responded that they would be allowed some days but not others. Acosta has also claimed that CNN has essentially been blackballed in the daily briefings with Spicer often not taking a question from the cable network. He pointed out on Monday that President Obama took questions from Fox News, who vocally opposed his administration, but that the Trump White House limits questions from media outlets they know do not fully support his policies.
“Fox News always got a question every day at the briefing under President Obama, so let’s just make sure that that’s perfectly clear to everybody watching out there. This is a new thing that this White House is doing to us here at CNN and to a couple of other news outlets as well.”
In a piece published to their website on Monday afternoon, CNN accused Sean Spicer and the Trump White House of trying to diminish the relevance of daily televised briefings “through benign neglect.” They argue that Spicer and the administration know that ours is a visual culture and that people don’t pay attention if it isn’t televised. Spicer said last week that he agrees that the conversation about policy that takes place in the daily gatherings is important but that whether or not they are televised “is not the be-all and end-all.” CNN addressed that comment with this.
“There appears to be no more substance in Spicer’s answers when the cameras are off versus when they are on. He — and deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — tend to be extremely terse when answering questions and, when asked about President Trump’s view on a particular issue, often insist they simply haven’t asked the president. And they don’t follow up. Whether or not the cameras are running.”
The White House Correspondents Association has come out in clear opposition to the off-camera press briefings, saying that they provide a needed transparency of the operations of government at the highest levels.
You can listen to the audio of yesterday’s press briefing below. The discussion between Sean Spicer and various members of the press, including Acosta, about the lack of televised briefings begins around 28:22.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]