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When he was asked why the White House had recently cut the number of daily press briefings in favor of off-camera gaggles, chief strategist Steve Bannon replied, “Sean got fatter.”
Bannon, making the comment to a reporter for The Atlantic, was referring to the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, who has been in the public eye less over the past few weeks. Bannon reportedly did not respond to follow-up questions from the Atlantic reporter.
The decision to downsize daily press briefings did not happen overnight, though President Donald Trump did threaten to eliminate them all together last month. “…Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???” he tweeted.
Instead of canceling them, the Trump administration has slowly rolled back the daily briefing, gradually decreasing reporters’ access to White House officials and the president. Now, as opposed to the daily, on-camera briefing, Spicer has more routinely favored off-camera press gaggles. And in some recent cases, including on Monday, news outlets were instructed not to record audio of the gaggles.
The administration’s actions – amid multiple ongoing investigations into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to sway the 2016 election – have frustrated reporters.
“The White House press secretary is getting to a point, Brooke, where he’s just kind of useless,” CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta told host Brooke Baldwin on Monday, following a press gaggle during which reporters were not allowed to record audio. “If he can’t come out and answer the questions, and they’re just not going to do this on camera or audio, why are we even having these briefings or these gaggles in the first place?”
Spicer is scheduled to attend a press briefing on Tuesday.