Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that access to White House briefings is jealously protected by reporters unwilling to surrender their high-profile positions. | AP Photo
White House press briefings should not just be open to the press, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday morning, but should instead include average American citizens whose questions might counteract those from the “left-wing propagandists” of the Washington press corps.
“Just as an example, I’d allow one-fourth or one half of the people at the press conference to be citizens,” Gingrich said on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” Monday morning. “Why is there this presumption that somebody who calls themselves the press even though they’re total left-wing propagandists, they’re somehow privileged creatures. The question is, should people be allowed to ask questions of the White House? Why does that have to be only the news media? Or why does it have to be only the Washington news media?”
The former House speaker, a regular Trump surrogate who was a finalist to be the vice presidential nominee, offered his suggestion in the wake of a weekend in which the White House wasted little time in clashing with the media. Irked by reports that Trump’s inaugural festivities had been poorly attended relative to the two inaugurations of his predecessor, the Trump administration called reporters in for a Saturday evening briefing in which Press Secretary Sean Spicer admonished the press with brief remarks that contained at least five demonstrably false statements.
Defending her White House colleague, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Spicer had simply offered “alternative facts.”
Of particular concern to Conway, Spicer and Gingrich was an incorrect report issued by the White House press pool on Friday that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office by the new Trump administration. That report was quickly corrected and the reporter behind it apologized, but Gingrich suggested that the motives behind it were more nefarious.
The suggestion that the president had removed the bust of King was “part of an underlining effort to say that Trump is a racist,” Gingrich said. He called it “exactly false and exactly divisive,” adding that “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd’s dismissal of it as a simple reporting error during his exchange with Conway was “a sign of the total, one-sided bias of the news media.”
“We ought to start talking about mainstream propaganda. They’re not news stories. They’re not news outlets. Chuck’s not a newsman. All these people are propagandists for the left, and we ought to be honest about it and straightforward about it,” Gingrich said. “The Trump team’s got to understand: This is not a one day event. Every day they’re in office, whether it’s four years or eight years, every day they’re going to have absolute hostility from the propaganda wing of the left.”
White House Press Briefings are open to any and all reporters who the White House grants credentials to, not just a select few. (Some reporters have “hard passes” which are permanent credentials, others can apply for day passes). And while the 49 seats in the briefing room are assigned to specific media organizations, if nobody from that outlet attends a given briefing, that seat is open to any reporter wishing to sit there and reporters are free to stand.
White House press credentials are not limited just to reporters from Washington-based media outlets, but are instead issued to newspapers and TV stations from around the country and the world.
Gingrich suggested that access to White House briefings is jealously protected by reporters unwilling to surrender their high-profile positions. Adding non-journalists to the briefings would make the briefings more fair he suggested, as would moving them out of their current space in the West Wing and into one that could accommodate more people.
“Here’s the way the game is currently played. There’s a tiny group, I think it’s less than five percent of the total white house press corps, that’s allowed in that room over and over and over again. There’s an even tinier group that sits in the front two rows every day,” the former speaker said. “Now, these people all become precious and special and important because we see them on TV. And then they begin to think they should judge the president.”