News and Commentary

Trump Infuriates White House Press Corps By Taking A Bunch Of Questions So Often
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 21: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media before departing from the White House on August 21, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump spoke on several topics including the U.S. economy and why he canceled his trip to Denmark.
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Back in the 1980s, President Reagan used to dodge questions from the press as he walked toward his presidential helicopter, Marine One, on the lawn of the White House. With ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson in his terrible toupee yelling “Sir! Sir!” at him, Reagan would cup a hand around his ear, shrug his shoulders as if he couldn’t hear, then walk off, all without missing a stride.

The press complained loudly back then.

But President Trump does it a bit differently. As he strolls toward his chopper, he stops and takes questions — sometimes a whole bunch of questions. And wouldn’t you know it, the press don’t like THAT either.

One reporter told Politico that if Trump were at a podium, “we would be correcting him.”

“If he was at a podium, we would be pressing him after he answers the question, we would be correcting him, we would be pointing out discrepancies in previous answers, and we’re not able to do that in the chaotic setting of a departure,” CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang said. “Many times I’ve tried to ask a follow-up question, but he’s already pointed to somebody else.”

Aw, that’s horrible. Doesn’t the president of the United States realize that the NBC reporter is running the press conference? What a travesty!

Jiang also said the loud engines on the chopper give Trump an advantage. “He’ll just hear a word that catches his attention like ‘racism’ or ‘the Squad’ or whatever the topic is, and he’ll just deliver what he’s probably already been tweeting about and what he already firmly believes so that can be difficult,” she said.

But Trump’s on-the-move press conferences give reporters far more access than his predecessor gave, Fox News reports.

“According to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who keeps detailed records of the presidency, Trump has stopped to answer reporter questions — both departing or arriving to the White House on Marine One and on the tarmac before or after riding Air Force One — more than 80 times. He said he found only three instances when former President Barack Obama similarly spoke to reporters in transit and, during such times, he used a podium,” Fox wrote.

Reporters have had far more access to Trump — and not just on the White House lawn. “The frequent ‘chopper talk’ is one of the reasons Trump has surpassed his five predecessors — Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan — in fielding questions from reporters during their first 30 months in office, according to the White House Transition Project. Those five presidents took questions at approximately one third of their public speaking events, while Trump does so at more than half of his,” Politico reported.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said last week that Trump is “so accessible” she can’t fathom why “what any of the press could complain about.”

“President Trump communicates directly with the American people more than any President in history,” she said. “The fact that the White House press corps can no longer grandstand on TV is of no concern to us.”

But veteran reporter Peter Baker of the New York Times also complained about the way Trump takes questions.

“There’s no question that it works to his advantage that we look unruly and disorderly,” Baker told Politico. “It’s not like standing at a podium in the East Room or the briefing room, where you can have a civilized calling on people who raise their hands.”

Baker also said reporters are forced to ask straight-forward questions. “You can’t ask a question that has a predicate or a kind of complex construction because you’re shouting with all the other reporters like ‘Mr. President, what about Iran?’’or ‘Mr. President, they say you’re a racist,'” Baker said.​

Aww, the poor White House press corps.

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