Spicer: Publicity-Hungry Reporters Want to ‘Become YouTube Stars’

White House press secretary defends use of off-camera briefings to prioritize 'substantive discussions'

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 21 Jun 2017 at 1:01 PM

White House press secretary Sean Spicer pushed back on reporters’ complaints that on-camera news briefings have been limited, during an interview Wednesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show,” saying many of them “want to become YouTube stars and ask some snarky question that’s been asked eight times.”

Several White House correspondents from mainstream media and liberal-leaning outlets have accused Spicer of exhibiting a “lack of transparency” in holding fewer briefings and more off-camera sessions. Pushing back on that type of whining, Spicer insisted that he isn’t holding “fewer briefings,” and the “reality is that we follow the same practice as past administrations.”

"What we found was, is that outlets were violating what we had said at the beginning — which is, you can use the audio, just not right away — and sort of broadcasting the briefing at the same time, just putting the picture up and running that over, which was not the intent," Spicer said of the off-camera briefings. "And so days on which the president was speaking, we would generally do an off-camera gaggle. It's a tradition that has been held for a while."

When President Donald Trump travels, Spicer noted that the administration has adhered to tradition and allowed a press gaggle on board the plane with the president. Although the press secretary claimed that the Trump administration isn't holding fewer briefings, he noted that Trump was elected to bring "change" to Washington and upset the status quo.

"We made that clear, from the beginning, that in a variety of ways we are going to look to do things differently, to do things better," Spicer said. "And this is one area that we've done that. And we talked about it literally from the beginning."

"We would be interacting with the press despite some of the bias — free press is part of a democracy — but that we would be doing it in some ways that were different and better," Spicer added. "We've allowed more access to a lot of folks who haven't had it. And the bottom line is that I think the mainstream media, who has had a stranglehold on deciding what information the American people got to see, is upset that more people, more voices are getting an opportunity to get involved in having their questions answered, to participate in our democracy."

Despite the negative bias Spicer said he has witnessed from the media, he said "we have an entire press staff that is totally accessible during those hours and on the weekends to the press."

But that hasn't stopped the complaints from disgruntled outlets and reporters from piling up, Spicer said.

"There's a lot of them that want to become YouTube stars and ask some snarky question that's been asked eight times. And that's right, that's their right to do that. But it's our job to make sure that we're providing updates and readouts of what the president is doing and the advances he is making on his agenda," Spicer continued. "And so there is a bit of snarkiness now with the press because, again, a lot of them are more focused about getting their clip on air than they are of actually taking the time to understand an issue."

When Ingraham asked Spicer if the off-camera briefings will begin to include audio, Spicer said that may be possible.

"The issue was is that I think that we had ... several outlets violate the press guidance a couple times," Spicer said. "The nice thing about turning the cameras off sometimes, and I find this, is that it is not 'performance art,' as you call it, that you end up having, I think sometimes, a more substantive discussion about actual issues because they're not trying to get their clip. They're not trying to figure out, 'How do I get on TV? How do I ask some snarky question?' You can actually focus on the substance of the issues."

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