President Donald Trump announced Saturday that he would be canceling — or, at least, limiting — his daily coronavirus briefings after a week of brutal clashes with mainstream reporters, a dustup with CNN, and an incident that saw members of the media wrongly portray a question, asked by Trump himself, as a suggestion that Americans should inject themselves with bleach or other disinfectants.
In a tweet Saturday night, Trump lashed out at members of the media who, he claims, have rendered the daily briefings pointless with their confrontational attitudes.
“What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately,” Trump complained on Twitter. “They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”
Friday was Trump’s shortest presser of the coronavirus pandemic — a mere 25-minute briefing with no question and answer period. The president clearly cut the briefing short after finding himself under a deluge of criticism for allegedly suggesting that Americans inject themselves with bleach or other chemical disinfectants to fight the virus — a “suggestion” that was either a question about complex UV and disinfectant treatments on which the president had been counseled, or a “sarcastic” remark to a reporter, as the president later claimed.
Either way, the suggestion, which went viral, caused a media frenzy, with outlets reporting on an increase of calls to poison control (which was, apparently, unrelated, and part of a long-term trend completely unrelated to the president) and issuing dire warnings against drinking Clorox.
The incident clearly troubled Trump, who called time on the press conferences after, Axios says, consulting with “three or four” White House officials who pressed Trump to either shorten or end the briefings altogether.
“They’ve told him he’s overexposed and these appearances are part of the reason polls aren’t looking good for him right now against Joe Biden,” the outlet reported Saturday. “Another source close to the deliberations said there simply isn’t enough new material to justify Trump appearing before the press every day.”
“Seniors are scared,” a source told Axios, referring to senior White House advisors. “And the spectacle of him fighting with the press isn’t what people want to see.”
Instead, reporters will likely receive a short briefing from experts — perhaps daily, or perhaps several times per week — and Trump’s appearances will be sporadic and unannounced, and limited to announcing victories. It’s also possible that the briefings could tighten up, instead of being “freewheeling,” as CNN describes them, lasting for minutes rather than for hours.
No final decision has been made, White House sources cautioned Axios, and Trump likes the briefings — he’s often spoken about how he’s now getting “Bachelor-like” ratings on Twitter and elsewhere — but Axios does say that the White House was considering ending the daily briefings even before Thursday’s incident as a way of demonstrating to the country that things are getting back to normal, that life in the White House is “slowing down,” and that a daily medical and technological briefing are no longer necessary.
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