The overnight report by Esquire magazine that the incoming Trump administration is “seriously considering” a plan to evict the press corps from the White House prompted a frenzied response by the White House Correspondents Association, and led to a scramble among Washington’s press elite to demand if this report was accurate. As it turns out, Trump’s intentions may be just the opposite of what was reported, because according statements by Priebus, Pence and Spicer, the incoming Trump administration is actually considering expanding the number of journalists who have access to Trump, not limiting it.
As a result, the Trump admin is now considering moving White House press briefings out of the West Wing to accommodate more than the “Washington media elite,” incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on Sunday, cited by Bloomberg.
VP-elect Mike Pence said any change would be made for logistical reasons, in response to heavy demand from media organizations. “There’s such a tremendous amount of interest in this incoming administration that they’re giving some consideration to finding a larger venue on the 18 acres in the White House complex, to accommodate that extraordinary interest,” Pence said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
“The interest of the team is to make sure that we accommodate the broadest number of people who are interested and media from around the country and around the world,” Pence said. For a president who has made Twitter into his preferred mode of communication with the outside world, this would appear sensible.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week”, Priebus said the team discussed moving news conferences out of the small West Wing briefing room to the Old Executive Office, which is part of the White House complex.
“The one thing that we discussed was whether or not we want to move the initial press conferences into the Executive Office Building,” Priebus said, adding, “you can fit four times the amount of people.” He added that no decision had been made.
“I know that some of the folks in the press are uptight about this, and I understand,” Priebus said. “The only thing that’s been discussed is whether or not the initial press conferences are going to be in that small press … the press room that people see on TV is very, very tiny.” Priebus added that demand for conference credentials far exceeds the “49 people” who can fit into the current briefing room.
After “500 or 600” people attended Trump’s press conference in New York on Jan. 11, the president-elect’s first since the election, “we started thinking, man alive, if we have more people involved instead of less people involved, wouldn’t that be a good thing,” Priebus said.
“So no one is moving out of the White House. That is the White House, where you can fit four times the number of people in the press conference, allowing more press, more coverage from all over the country … That’s what we’re talking about.”
“This is about greater accessibility, more people in the process,” Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer added Sunday on Fox News Channel’s “Media Buzz.” Involving more people, including bloggers and others who aren’t from the mainstream media, “should be seen as a welcome change,” he said. Indeed, it will be… by the alternative press; the “media elite”, however, will be quite disappointed that their exclusive access rights to the president will be stripped away if only for the next four years, commoditizing their “value added” to the level of your lowly. neighrborhood blogger.
Meanwhile, the White House Correspondents’ Association objected in a statement to “any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps,” and said that it would fight to keep the briefing room and access to senior administration officials open. Jeff Mason, a Reuters White House correspondent, is president of the WHCA.
According to Reuters, the existing briefing room was built in 1970 by Richard Nixon over an old swimming pool installed by Franklin Roosevelt that was used regularly by John F. Kennedy but underutilized by later administrations. But the presence of reporters at the White House dates back even farther. In addition to theater-style seats where the White House press secretary conducts daily briefings, the press area of the White House includes workspace for television, radio, print and online news organizations that cover the administration on a daily basis.
And soon, it will include bloggers.