A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
President Donald Trump dodged questions from reporters on Friday. He went into hiding over the weekend, opting against holding a briefing. He raged on Sunday that the briefings are "not worth the time & effort." His White House canceled Monday's briefing. And press secretary Kayleigh McEnany even teased that future briefings might have a new look.
But in the end, the temptation was apparently too much. Trump could only hold out for so long and, on Monday evening, he hosted reporters in the Rose Garden for another freewheeling news conference. "We like to keep reporters on their toes," tweeted White House director of strategic comms Alyssa Farah after it was announced Trump would indeed hold a press conference. That OR the country was watching in real-time the White House react to the change whims of the President.
Peter Baker summed things up nicely, writing in NYT, "The lure of cameras in the Rose Garden proved too hard to resist. For a president who relishes the spotlight and spends hours a day watching television, the idea of passing on his daily chance to get his message out turned out to be untenable despite his anger over his coverage."
Borger writes about his need to be center of attention
In a piece for CNN Politics, Gloria Borger illustrated Trump's desire to be in the limelight using an anecdote from 1989. Borger explained that the Rolling Stones had agreed to a concert and press conference at Trump Plaza. "One hitch: The Stones insisted that Trump could not be there. They even had it written into their contract," Borger wrote.
"As the band prepared to meet the press, Trump walked in, ready to go to the podium too," Borger explained. "The Stones refused to go out with him; one of their reps demanded that Trump leave per their contract. Trump was furious and stormed out."
"What the hell's going on?" Trump wondered. "It's my press conference." As Borger wrote Monday, "As we now know, it's always Trump's press conference."
"Kayleigh McEnany says Trump's briefings are 'excellent.' Maybe she didn't watch them."
That was the headline on Erik Wemple's latest column for WaPo. Wemple quoted McEnany lauding the news conferences, telling Fox News, "They're a way for the president to speak directly to the American people." He wrote, "She could not have articulated the problem more forcefully."
>> Related: Wemple also published video of White House aide Katie Price trying to force Kaitlan Collins and Chris Johnson to swap seats at Friday's briefing...
Joe Lockhart's advice for reporters
Attention White House reporters: Joe Lockhart offered some good advice on how to press the White House for answers, based on his unique experience "from years of anticipating questions and follow-ups, plotting out answers and understanding where the traps are." One key piece of advice? Stop directing questions to Trump who he argued is "very adept at avoiding them."
Instead, Lockhart suggested questioning experts, pointing out that "none of them are as capable at lying or dodging the question as the president is." Lockhart explained, "The more you pepper them with questions, the closer you'll get to the truth. I always felt anxious when experts gave the briefings, not because they'd get something wrong, but because they would often say too much."
Lockhart also suggested journalists "work together as a group." He urged reporters to follow up on each others' questions, writing, "My worst fear during a briefing was losing control of the room as reporters worked in tandem to pin me down on a particular subject -- one that I often wanted to avoid."
Highlights from Monday's briefing
>> Trump declined to take responsibility for any spike in people ingesting disinfectants. When asked why Maryland said they received more poison control calls than normal, Trump said, "I can't imagine why..."
>> Olivia Nuzzi asked Trump: "If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died over the entire of the Vietnam War, does he deserve to be reelected?" Trump replied saying the projections had the government taken no action showed many more people dying...
>> Trump was asked by OAN if he would rehire former national security adviser Micahel Flynn if he were to be exonerated as some claim he will be. Trump praised Flynn, who he previously fired, saying what happened to him was a "disgrace." Trump added, "Let's see what happens now..."
>> Trump said he has a "very good idea" about the health of Kim Jong Un, but that he "can't talk about it now." He added that he wishes the North Korean dictator well...
FOR THE RECORD
-- Elizabeth Williamson profiles Kayleigh McEnany, describing her as a "press fighter..." (NYT)
-- Chris Hayes said Monday night, "In the U.S., the person in charge who is tasked with this incredibly difficult moment with assessing these complicated questions leaders around the world are wrestling with is a guy who spends his day watching TV and rage tweeting..." (Mediaite)
-- Maggie Haberman tweeted that the White House "omitted several outlets" from a briefing on testing Monday: "During a pandemic in which millions of jobs have been lost and the food supply chain is being threatened, White House officials used the same tactics that were often used in the 2016 campaign against outlets the president is unhappy with re a testing announcement...." (Twitter)
-- "The WHO wants to fight the coronavirus 'infodemic.' Here's how...." (WaPo)
-- Tucker Carlson slammed the lockdowns Monday night, contending there is no scientific justification for expanding them. Carlson argued the curve may not have been flattened because of the quarantines, but simply because the coronavirus "isn't nearly as deadly as we thought it was..." (Mediaite)
-- "Dr. Deborah Birx's balancing act between science and President Donald Trump's disinformation may be reaching the point of no return," writes Stephen Collins and Maeve Reston... (CNN)
Andy Lack: 'Heart of journalism has never been stronger'
In a piece published on NBCNews.com, Andy Lack wrote that despite challenges facing the industry, he believes that "what has become powerfully clear during this pandemic is that the heart of journalism has never been stronger." Lack noted, "journalists are asking tough questions" and "tracking the spread of the coronavirus without fear or favor, faithfully doing their jobs even ... in this perilous time."
"At this dark hour, people are scared," Lack wrote. "They're being bombarded daily by noise and information, not all of it correct — some of it intentionally divisive and polarizing. They're hungry for accurate information and the straight, unvarnished truth. Now, and in all the days to come, journalists will be there."
Fox cuts ties with 'Diamond & Silk'
On Friday, I pointed out that "Diamond & Silk" had mysteriously vanished from Fox News after spreading some outlandish coronavirus misinformation and conspiracy theories. Their weekly Fox Nation program hadn't been uploaded since early in the month (it was normally posted each week), and I couldn't find any recent on-air appearances from them. Now, we know why.
The Daily Beast's Lachlan Cartwright and Justin Baragona reported Monday that the network had cut ties with the pro-Trump duo. "After what they've said and tweeted you won't be seeing them on Fox Nation or Fox News anytime soon," a source told The Daily Beast. The network, however, won't confirm it on the record. I emailed a spokesperson, and didn't hear back.
>> Brian Lowry emails his thoughts: "Diamond and Silk" and Trish and... ? Fox News is in an interesting double bind PR-wise, it would seem, regarding these instances when it cuts ties with talent after inflammatory remarks. Why? Because the network appears reluctant to spell out the reason publicly, out of understandable fear that doing so would mean being questioned about a double standard, as it surely would, when its higher-profile hosts (Hannity, Ingraham, Carlson, Pirro) cross similar lines...
Meanwhile, Tomi Lahren compares stay-at-home to slavery
Speaking of Fox Nation personalties... Tomi Lahren on Monday tweeted, "Compliance starting to look a whole like willful slavery." After I asked Fox News whether the network was okay with her comparing these two things, Lahren deleted the tweet.