A virus has spread across the White House press corps: No, not COVID-19, but TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome).
Reporters who attend the daily briefing by President Trump, Vice President Pence and a slew of top officials are taking advantage of a limited press corps to exhibit their disdain for the president. And each day, there are several very snotty questions (as an aside, I covered the White House for 12 years and I know a snotty question when I hear it). What’s more, several reporters just talked over the president when he was speaking.
On Friday, NBC reporter Peter Alexander asked why the president was optimistic about a new drug that may be useful in combating the effects of the virus when he should be busy frightening Americans (sort of).
“What do you say to the Americans who are scared, though, I guess,” Alexander said. “Nearly 200 dead, 14,000 who are sick, millions, as you witnessed, who are scared right now. What do you say to Americans who are watching right now who are scared?”
“I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say,” Trump responded. “I think that’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope, and you’re doing sensationalism. Let’s see if it works. It might, and it might not. I happen to feel good about it, but who knows. I’ve been right — a lot. Let’s see what happens.
“Let me just tell you something, that’s really bad reporting, and you oughta’ get back to reporting instead of sensationalism,” Trump scolded. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
On Monday, the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA), which sets the seating chart in the room, released a rearranged seating chart to increase “social distancing,” meaning quite a few reporters are now without the seats they once held. Under the new setup, only every other seat is occupied.
And those not on the seating chart are out, the White House said in an email to reporters.
“Members of the press who do not have a seat on the updated seating chart or who do not participate in the President’s In-House Pool will not be permitted access to the White House Complex,” said an email from White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham. She added that the changes are “effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and continuing until further notice.”
The WHCA issued new policies late Sunday in an effort to follow guidelines set out by doctors to stem the spread of the coronavirus. And the association urged reporters to work remotely if possible and limit the number of journalists at the White House to the bare minimum.
The WHCA is discouraging those without a seat from attending White House briefings.
“We understand these restrictions are deeply disruptive to our members and their ability to do their jobs,” WHCA President Jonathan Karl of ABC News said in a statement, The Hill reported. “But we are forced to take these steps to do our part to ensure that there is a healthy pool available to cover the president and inform the public during this critical time.”
The new arrangement means just five “conservative” outlets are now in the briefing room at any given time — Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times (which will share a seat with The New York Post), and One America Network (which will share a seat with Newsmax). Fox Business News will also share a seat with CNBC.