Two days after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer delivered a broadside to the news media scolding them for underestimating Pres. Trump, Spicer returned to the briefing room for the administration’s first official press briefing. Spicer gave an opening statement and then answered questions from more than an hour.
In addition the cable news’ big 3, two broadcast networks also took the briefing. George Stephanopoulos anchored ABC News’ live coverage, with Jon Karl, Cecilia Vega and Martha Raddatz all reporting live. NBC News provided an optional special report for stations with Lester Holt anchoring.
The CBS broadcast network did not take the press briefing, but CBSN did. Vladimir Duthiers anchored for CBSN.
In terms of seating, not much changed for the prominent front row, including Karl, NBC’s Hallie Jackson and CBS’s Margaret Brennan as well as John Roberts of Fox News, Jim Acosta of CNN, Jeff Mason of Reuters, and Julie Pace of The Associated Press.
Scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET, Spicer kicked things off at 1:44 p.m. ET.
“By the way, just as I get started, I know that Josh Earnest was voted the most popular Press Secretary by the press corps so after checking my Twitter feed, I shot Josh an e-mail last night letting him know he can rest easy that his title is secure for at least the next few days.” The joke elicited a few chuckles from the room.
The administration apparently took notice of a suggestion made by NBC’s Chuck Todd during an interview with Poynter about “Skype seats,” because Spicer announced that 4 Skype seats will be provided in the briefing room. The seats are rotating and are for organizations who are 50 miles outside of Washington, D.C.
— NBC News PR (@NBCNewsPR) January 23, 2017
Here’s the order of questions:
- Daniel Halper from the New York Post asked the first question. It was about the border wall.
- Christian Broadcasting Network’s Jennifer Wishon asked about Trump re-instating the Mexico City Policy.
- Janet Rodriguez from Univision (interesting given Trump’s past beef with the network) asked about DACA and immigration policy.
- Blake Burman from Fox Business asked about the corporate tax rate, government spending and entitlements.
- April Ryan from American Urban Radio Networks got a few questions in. She asked about high price of prescription drugs and potential meetings with the Congressional Black Caucus after a conversation with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). She also talked about the new healthcare system.
- Next, Julie Pace asked a couple foreign policy-related questions.
- FNC’s John Roberts asked about the Keystone Pipeline, as well as about Sen. John McCain’s comments condemning the new president’s move to withdraw from TPP.
- ABC’s Jon Karl was the first to bring up Saturday’s combative statement. “Is it your intention to always tell the truth from that podium?,” Karl asked. “It is. It’s an honor to do this. I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. Our intention is never to lie to you. I will tell the facts as I know them, but it is also a two-way street.” It became a lengthy back-and-forth, but Spicer still maintained that it was still “the largest-watched inauguration ever.”
- 45 minutes in, a reporter asked about Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. Spicer’s response: “I think he has a healthy respect for the First Amendment and this is what makes our country so beautiful is that on one day you can inaugurate a president, the next day people can occupy the same space to protest something. He’s cognizant to the fact that people were there to protest an issue of concern to them, not against anything…I think the president’s going to show through action and through success that he’s fighting for them and fighting for every American.”
- Spicer called on Jim Acosta at 2:45 p.m. ET., who asked why the president seems to be so obsessed with the inauguration crowd size, and why he talked about it at the CIA. Spicer then vented for close to 10 minutes about what he believes is a constant barrage of negative media coverage. “Our frustration is about more than just a tweet. When we’re right, say we’re right. When we’re wrong, say we’re wrong. But it can’t always be negative. The narrative and default narrative is always negative, and it’s demoralizing. I think that when you sit here and you realize the sacrifice the guy made of leaving a very, very successful business, because he really cares about this country, and he wants to — despite your partisan differences, he cares about making this country better for everybody. He wants to make it safer for everybody. So, when you wake up every day and that’s what you’re seeing over and over again and you’re not seeing stories about the cabinet folks that he’s putting or the success he’s having trying to keep american jobs here, yeah, it is a little disappointing.”
- CBS was called on twice, a radio reporter as well as Brennan. Both NBC’s Hallie Jackson and Kristen Welker were called on.
- By calling on FBN, FNC, the New York Post and Sky News, many Rupert Murdoch-owned entities got questions in.