Media critic breaks down 'cheap intimidation tactics' used by Trump's White House to control press briefing room

Media critic breaks down 'cheap intimidation tactics' used by Trump's White House to control press briefing room
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and members of the White House Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force, delivers remarks and answers questions from members of the press during the coronavirus update briefing Thursday, April 9, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N.Boghosian)

When President Donald Trump held his nightly White House press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, April 24, a White House staffer was determined to micromanage which journalists would be seated where — and Washington Post media critic Erik Wemble offers a scathing analysis in a video posted on Twitter and YouTube, explaining why the staffer’s actions were so egregious.


“The White House is invoking the Secret Service and using cheap intimidation tactics to scare reporters into other seats,” Wemple asserts in the video. And the Post media critic goes on to say, “They’re using these seats to accomplish a change in tone in the briefing room. The president doesn’t want to answer — or even face — the sort of questions that CNN and other outlets are asking in that briefing room. It doesn’t matter where you put the reporters; those questions have to be answered.”

In video footage taken before the press conference got underway, Wemple explains, Katie Price (a White House official) is seen asking Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson to move from the back of the White House briefing room to the front row — where CNN’s Kaitlan Collins had planned to sit.

Wemple, in the video, asserts, “It’s not Price’s role or job to tell reporters where to sit. It’s not even the president’s job or the chief of staff’s job. That job falls to the White House Correspondents’ Association.”

In the video, Wemple explains that the WHCA was founded in 1914 when Democrat Woodrow Wilson was president — and one of things it is designed to do is make sure that reporters who are likely to ask tough questions aren’t marginalized. In other words, someone like Collins, theoretically, should be seated near the front because she is more likely to ask tough questions. The WHCA, as Wemple lays out in the video, is designed to encourage reporters to act as watchdogs — which is what they are supposed to do in a democratic republic.

Watch the video below:

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.