An off-the-record gathering between President-elect Donald Trump and members of the media earned criticism and sparked debate over whether journalists were pushing Trump enough to make himself available on the record.
On Sunday, some high-profile reporters and 2016 presidential campaign embeds schmoozed with Trump and members of his transition team at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, drinking and posing for individual and group pictures with the president-elect, who attended for a half an hour.
The online backlash to the meeting was swift after Mike Allen, the former Politico reporter who is cofounding the new media company Axios, posted a photo from the party:
— Mike Allen (@mikeallen) December 19, 2016
when journalists kowtow the most powerful it shows how little they care to hear from powerless
— Wilson Dizard (@willdizard) December 19, 2016
lol in all seriousness though this is terribly embarrassing for you & everyone in this photo should be ashamed. happy holidays!
— Silpa Kovvali (@SilpaKov) December 19, 2016
The 2017 cast of The Authoritarian Apprentice https://t.co/asA7AgiTB5
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) December 19, 2016
Though it is hardly uncommon for the president or his staff to meet with reporters off the record, many observers took issue with journalists attending the meeting amid Trump’s recent refusal to hold a traditional press conference.
Despite criticizing Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail for failing to hold a press conference, Trump has not held one in 144 days, breaking the custom for presidents-elect to hold press conferences in the days immediately after an election.
Reporters shouldn’t pal around off-the-record with Trump until he agrees to have a public, on-the-record news conference. Grow a backbone https://t.co/3Tb59y7g4M
— Will Bunch (@Will_Bunch) December 19, 2016
Trump hasn’t had a press conference in 143 days.
But he’s now had a private press confab. https://t.co/ju05fC3dkw
— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) December 19, 2016
And who don’t answer questions on the record. https://t.co/6GQrTUutMx
— Kai Ryssdal (@kairyssdal) December 19, 2016
Obama did OTRs, too. Problem is if Trump isn’t also answering questions on the record. And he hasn’t held a press conference since July. https://t.co/JTqdJz1fpX
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) December 19, 2016
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman did not criticize the meeting but pointed out that a similar off-the-record dinner in 2015 hosted by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, drew the ire of numerous Trump supporters and Trump-friendly media outlets.
Will the same people who treated the Podesta dinner like some kind of conspiracy react same to Trump/reporters evening?
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) December 19, 2016
Others lamented Trump’s frequent demonization of the press, noting how he often used the traveling press pool as a punch line or a target at rallies.
don’t pose for pictures with men who turn crowds against you
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) December 19, 2016