Sean Spicer held a brief press event this evening at the White House. While it was more of a scolding than a briefing, it did illuminate three specific areas of concern:
- Facts are still not important: Press secretaries in the past have tried very hard to share facts and hard data to answer questions from the Press. This will likely not be the case going forward. Spicer’s lecture to reporters gathered in the White House briefing room contained at least two factual errors: He asserted that attendance at Trump’s inauguration was greater than at Obama’s 2013 inauguration and that DC transit ridership was up over the 2013 inauguration.
- Ego is the driver: The stated purpose of the briefing was to update the Press on the president’s activities over the past 24 hours. The reality is that the purpose of the briefing was to counter media reports that turnout for Donald Trump’s inauguration was lower than Obama’s and that it did not meet the expectations that Trump himself set earlier in the week.
- Bash the Press to distract: An element of the briefing was a scolding for an inaccurate tweet by a Time reporter alleging that the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. The reporter in question had already apologized for the error, but the mistake was the cornerstone for a lesson in responsible journalism, the importance of facts, and accountability.
What Spicer succeeded in doing is making crowd size a topic of discussion for the next 48 hours. It’s difficult to discern if this was an intentional red herring so that reporters chase a story about crowd size rather than Trump’s action to increase mortgage insurance rates yesterday. It may also be that crowd size is, in fact, more important to President Trump than governance.
The media needs to pay close attention to the issues that really matter and not allow themselves to be distracted.