Robert Reich: Trump’s Plan To Neuter White House Press Corps – OpEd

Tyrants don’t allow open questioning, and they hate the free press. They want total control.

That’s why, according to three senior officials on the transition team, the incoming Trump administration is considering evicting the White House press corps from the press room inside the White House and moving them – and news conferences – to a conference center or to the Old Executive Office Building.

This may sound like a small logistic matter. It’s not. The White House “press room” contains work stations and broadcast booths, and the briefing area for presidential news conferences. Reporters have had workspace at the White House since Teddy Roosevelt was president, in 1901.

But we’re in a new era, the reign of King Trump.

Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, acknowledges “there has been some discussion about how” to move the press out of the White House. Spicer says it’s because the new administration would like a larger room to allow more members of the press to attend press conferences.

Rubbish. It’s because a larger room would allow the administration to fill seats with “alt-right” fringe journalists, rightwing social media, Trump supporters and paid staffers. They’d be there to ask the questions Trump wants to answer, and to jeer at reporters who ask critical questions and applaud Trump’s answers.

The move would allow Trump to play the crowd.

That’s exactly what happened at Trump’s so-called “news conference” on January 11 – the first he’s held in six months.

It wasn’t really a press conference at all, and shouldn’t have been characterized as one. It was a fake news conference that took place in a large auditorium.

In the audience were paid staffers who jeered and snickered when reporters asked critical questions, and cheered every time Trump delivered one of his campaign zingers. It could easily have been one of his rallies.

In this carnival atmosphere it was easy for Trump to refuse to answer questions from reporters who have run stories he doesn’t like, and from news outlets that have criticized him.

He slammed CNN for dispensing “fake news,” called Buzzfeed “a pile of garbage,” and sarcastically called the BBC “another beauty.” The audience loved it.

Just as he did in his rallies, Trump continued calling the press “dishonest” – part of his ongoing effort to discredit the press and to reduce public confidence in it.

And he repeatedly lied. But the media in attendance weren’t allowed to follow up or to question him on his lies.

For example, Trump wrongly stated that “the Democratic National Committee was totally open to be hacked. They did a very poor job. … And they tried to hack the Republican National Committee, and they were unable to break through.” 

Baloney.FBI Director James B. Comey said there was evidence that Republican National Committee computers were also targeted. The critical difference, according to Comey, was that none of the information obtained from the RNC was leaked. Also, according to Comey, the Russians “got far deeper and wider into the [DNC] than the RNC,” adding that “similar techniques were used in both cases.”

Trump further asserted at his fake news conference that “I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.”

Wrong again. Trump repeatedly sought deals in Russia. In a 2008 speech, Donald Trump Jr. said “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” and “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Trump’s statements at his fake news conference were, and are, big lies. They influence public understanding and opinion about two critically important issues: Did the Russians help Trump win the election, and, if so, why might they have done so?

At the very least, they should have been followed up with questions from the White House press corps. That would have happened at a real news conference in the White House press room, holding 45 correspondents from major media outlets who are assigned full-time to report on the president.

Which is the danger of evicting the press from the White House and putting press conferences into a large auditorium: Trump won’t be called on his lies, and the White House press corps will lose the leverage they have by being together in one rather small room.

And that’s precisely why Trump wants to evict the press from the White House.

A senior official admitted the move was a reaction to hostile press coverage. The view at the highest reaches of the incoming administration is that the press is the enemy. “They are the opposition party,” said the senior official. “I want ‘em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”

The incoming Trump administration is intent on neutering the White House press corps. If it happens it will be another step toward neutering our  democracy.


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Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary INEQUALITY FOR ALL.

4 thoughts on “Robert Reich: Trump’s Plan To Neuter White House Press Corps – OpEd

  • January 16, 2017 at 11:22 am
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    dear editor of eurasia review, please stop publishing any ‘analyses’ badly thought out by mr reich. this ‘thinker’ has no idea about how his normal human fellows are living. living in his communistic dream world he is far away from any ability to predict the future of what politicians will influence. he was even wrong about the economic facts 2007/2008 and his predictions are not better then the ones from any fortune teller looking into his crystal ball… he is using his ‘academic’ power as any other weatherman. if things does not turn out the way he predicted he will have an excuse, because his future telling does not base on facts… lol … what a poor and destructive mind, coming up with all this invented and not proven facts about trump. i always wonder what it is about this ‘acdemic’ people who always critiicise but never coming up with any suggestion how to do things better… maybe his solution is the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of billionairs and politicians…

    Reply
    • January 16, 2017 at 4:27 pm
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      Writing to affirm that I too have noticed that leftist agenda issues forth from this site.

      Reply
      • January 17, 2017 at 1:53 am
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        Dear Zack,
        Thanks for your comment, however, we can assure you that there is no agenda on Eurasia Review, we publish all viewpoints, including Mr Reich’s and those of opposing views.

        Kindest regards
        Eurasia Review

        Reply
  • January 16, 2017 at 4:43 pm
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    The article is not about establishing any type of government but only about moving the press core to a different location from the White House. The previous comment displays the attidute of a Trump supporter who are defensive of any hint of criticizim of their idol Trump.

    Reply

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