After months of sitting dormant, the White House briefing room is back in use.
President Donald Trump has begun holding regular briefings on the coronavirus outbreak in the James S. Brady Briefing Room to update Americans on the pandemic.
However, The Washington Post’s media columnist Margaret Sullivan pointed to several exchanges during the briefings and accused the president of using them, which sometimes last for almost two hours, in place of campaign rallies.
While Trump has temporarily held off holding rallies, he has used the briefings to broadcast his message, tout his policies, and lash out at the media.
In recent days, Trump has lashed out at NBC News for its coverage of his decision to impose travel restrictions on China in February. An exchange with NBC’s Peter Alexander, who he called a “terrible reporter,” also caught a lot of attention.
The Post’s Sullivan claimed that Trump is “doing harm and spreading misinformation while working for his own partisan political benefit” during the briefings and called on networks to stop airing them live.
“Radical change is necessary: The cable networks and other news organizations that are taking the president’s briefings as live feeds should stop doing so.”
This week, ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and MSNBC broke away from the briefing to air their regularly scheduled programming. Meanwhile, Fox News continued to carry the briefings live.
A spokesperson for MSNBC explained the network decided to stop covering the briefing live because “the information no longer appeared to be valuable to the important ongoing discussion around public health.”
And, CNN said that if the White House wants the network to cover its events live, “They should make an official request. Otherwise, we will make our own editorial decisions.”
On Tuesday, Seattle radio station KUOW said in a tweet that it would no longer air the briefings live, “We will not be airing the briefings live due to a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact-checked in real-time.”
However, we will not be airing the briefings live due to a pattern of false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time. (2)— KUOW Public Radio (@KUOW) March 24, 2020
The decision to break away from the briefings reflects a similar decision the networks made in 2016 on whether or not to air Trump’s rallies live.
In October 2016, CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, expressed remorse that his network had carried Trump’s rallies early in the election season live.
“If we made any mistake last year, it’s that we probably did put too many of his campaign rallies in those early months and let them run,” he said, adding, “Because you never knew what he would say, there was an attraction to put those on the air.”
While some media columnists supported the decision to cut away from the briefings, Fox News’ Howard Kurtz, host of “MediaBuzz,” said he supports journalists holding Trump accountable for “what he says and does, or does not do.”
He added, “What I do not think is fair is for television to impose a blackout on the president of the United States because some on the left don’t think the public can handle hearing from him in this crisis.”