White House goes a full year without a daily press briefing


White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has yet to give a briefing, even as the country faces a raging pandemic.

It's been exactly one year to the day since the White House press secretary stood behind the podium in the James S. Brady briefing room to answer questions from reporters about the current administration.

The anniversary comes as the Unites States faces a pandemic due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, with the number of COVID-19 cases growing by the day.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and other members of the administration recently dusted off the thick layer of dust that collected on the unused podium to give updates on the virus. "We will be back here every day. Get used to seeing us," Pence said earlier in the week.

But White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has yet to take to the podium to answer questions from the media since she took over the role in June 2019.

Instead, Grisham favors appearances on Fox News, where she spends much of her time smearing Democrats and attacking Trump's opponents.

In August last year, Grisham told conservative television news conglomerate Sinclair that Trump was mulling whether to bring back briefings, but said that Trump's tweets and scrums with the media before events were enough for the time being.

"The president's also — he's so accessible, so right now I think that's good enough," Grisham said at the time.

Back in January, 13 former White House press secretaries penned an op-ed to CNN calling on Grisham to bring back the daily briefing, the last of which was held on March 11, 2019, when Sarah Huckabee Sanders was still press secretary.

"In any great democracy, an informed public strengthens the nation," they wrote. "The public has a right to know what its government is doing, and the government has a duty to explain what it is doing."

But Grisham still refused to get behind the podium, telling Axios in January that reporters are, "not looking for information, they're looking for a moment."

"This President is unorthodox in everything he's done. He's rewritten the rules of politics. His press secretary and everyone else in the administration is reflective of that," she said.

Grisham even refused an offer from a pair of famous authors, who said they'd donate $200,000 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital if Grisham agreed to brief the press.

The press secretary previewed those comments in September, telling "Fox & Friends," Trump's preferred news program, "The briefings had become a lot of theater, and I think that a lot of reporters were doing it to get famous."

She added that Trump had been offended by comedians mocking his spokespeople, saying, "They weren't being good to his people and he doesn't like that, he's very loyal to his people, and he put a stop to it."

Even before Trump, for all intents and purposes, ended briefings altogether, the White House held fewer briefings than any of the past five presidents, according to CNBC.

When his press secretaries did brief the media, they often peddled easily verifiable lies.

Former press secretary Sean Spicer famously claimed in his first press briefing that Trump had the largest audience for an inauguration ever, which was demonstrably false.

Sanders herself later admitted to former special counsel Robert Mueller that she had lied to the media during an earlier May 10, 2017, briefing when she claimed that "countless" FBI members had lost faith in former Director James Comey. Trump had unceremoniously fired Comey one day earlier over his refusal to drop the Russia investigation.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.