The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) is urging President Trump’s spokespeople to allow the daily press briefing to be broadcast on radio and television.
WHCA President Jeff Mason said he met with White House press secretary Sean Spicer and his deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, on Thursday to convey the reporters’ concerns about the increasing number of off-camera briefings.
“We have urged the White House not to replace on-camera briefings with ‘gaggles,’ not-for-broadcast question & answer sessions,” Mason said in a statement.
“We believe strongly that Americans should be able to watch and listen to senior government officials face questions from an independent news media, in keeping with the principles of the First Amendment and the need for transparency at the highest levels of government,” he continued.
Media organizations are ramping up pressure on the White House to drop new restrictions on press briefings that have angered reporters — and even some Trump allies.
Spicer on Friday will make just his eighth appearance before the media since Trump came back from his first international trip in late May, an unusually low number for a press secretary.
The White House has held just three on-camera briefings over the past three weeks. Spicer has also delegated briefing duties more frequently to Sanders, amid reports of an impending shakeup of the communications staff that could lead to a new role for Spicer.
Mason said he’s asked the White House to allow networks to broadcast audio of all briefings, which wasn’t permitted on several recent occasions.
White House officials say the changes could help the administration assert more control over its message, while also hindering reporters they say are merely trying to get famous.
“There’s a lot of them that want to become YouTube stars and ask some snarky question that’s been asked eight times,” Spicer said in an interview this week.
Mason said the off-camera setting does not serve the media, or the White House, well.
“Though they are useful and can play an important role in informing the press and the public, gaggles are not a substitute for the open back-and-forth between reporters and administration officials that regular televised briefings allow,” he said. “We are not satisfied with the current state-of-play, and we will work hard to change it.”