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White House press secretary Sean Spicer got into a heated exchange Monday with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta over the administration’s recent lack of televised press briefings.
Spicer quipped about cameras after Acosta asked whether President Donald Trump still believed House Republicans’ healthcare bill was “mean.”
“There’s no camera on, Jim,” Spicer said.
“Maybe we should turn the cameras on, Sean,” Acosta replied. “Why don’t we turn the cameras on? They’re in the room. The lights are on.”
The exchanged continued later in the briefing when Spicer refused to answer whether the White House would continue to have limited televised press availabilities.
“Why are the cameras off, Sean?” Acosta asked. “Why did you turn them off? Can you just give us an answer to that? Can you tell us why you turned the cameras off? It’s a legitimate question. You are a taxpayer-funded spokesman for the United States government. Can you at least give us an explanation for why the cameras are off?”
Trey Yingst, a White House correspondent for One America News Network, then asked: “Can we get this out of the way? Can we address the cameras issue?”
Spicer responded: “Some days we will have them; some days we won’t.”
In the past several weeks, the White House has severely reduced the number of weekly on-camera briefings, a formerly daily practice, holding audio-only briefings instead.
Asked on Fox News last week about the lack of televised briefings, Spicer accused reporters of seeking attention rather than attempting to get information from the White House.
“I think some of these reporters are more interested in their YouTube clips than they are in getting factual news,” Spicer said. “Look at the number of questions that get asked over and over again just so a reporter can get a clip of themselves saying something or yelling at someone.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association has condemned the White House’s communications department for avoiding the daily televised press briefings, which have yielded illuminating and occasionally embarrassing headlines for the administration.
“We believe strongly that Americans should be able to watch and listen to senior government officials face questions from an independent news media,” Jeff Mason, the president of the association, wrote in a memo on Friday. “We are not satisfied with the current state of play, and we will work hard to change it.”