Press: It's time to bring back White House briefings

Press: It's time to bring back White House briefings
© Getty Images

Let us now praise Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerPress: It's time to bring back White House briefings Rapid turnover shapes Trump's government Pelosi gets under Trump's skin on impeachment MORE and Sarah HuckabeeSarah Elizabeth SandersSarah Sanders says she 'can't think of anything dumber than' having Congress run foreign policy Rapid turnover shapes Trump's government God did not elect Trump, people did MORE Sanders. Granted, they were not the ideal White House press secretary. They both lied. They both considered reporters the enemy, and treated them as such. They were both difficult to work with. But here’s the deal: They both did their job. They both held daily, or almost daily, White House briefings. Unlike today’s so-called press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamParnas says he has turned over tape of Trump calling for diplomat's firing ABC: Recording apparently captures Trump discussing Yovanovitch ouster with Parnas, Fruman Trump's split-screen presidency takes stark form in impeachment MORE.

The truth is, there is no White House press secretary today. Stephanie Grisham may hold the title, but she might as well hang out on Mars. In fact, for all we know, she does. Get this: Since she became press secretary on July 1, 2019, Grisham has not held one White House briefing. She has not once stood behind the podium and met reporters. NOT ONCE! She’s not doing her job. She’s paid $183,000 a year for doing nothing. In any corporation, she’d be fired for being AWOL.

By virtue of appearing on national television from the White House every day, delivering the administration’s position on a range of issues, the press secretary quickly becomes a recognizable media star. Many former secretaries are still widely known and well-respected: Marlin Fitzwater, Mike McCurry, Joe Lockhart, Ari Fleischer, Tony Snow, Jay Carney and Josh Earnest. But not Stephanie Grisham. We don’t know the sound of her voice. And most reporters wouldn’t recognize her if she walked down the north driveway, which she never does.


Grisham’s absence — or at least the absence of regular White House briefings — was never more critical than in the past few weeks. Consider: Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE became only the third president to be impeached by the House of Representatives; the Senate’s about to hold a trial on whether Trump should be removed from office; and the United States bungled to the brink of war with Iran. The American people needed to hear from the White House. And what did they hear? Nothing! The last daily White House briefing was, in fact, on March 11, 2019.

When leaders of the White House Correspondents Association complain about the lack of briefings, Grisham and her staff argue that briefings by the press secretary are no longer necessary because the president himself often stops and talks to reporters as he walks to the helicopter on the South Lawn. Nonsense! I’ve attended several of those clusters. They’re impossible. Fifty reporters are shouting questions at the same time. Helicopter rotors are at full pitch. You can’t hear a word. There’s not chance for a follow-up. And Trump walks away whenever he wants to.

Which hurts Trump more than anybody. That’s what this White House doesn’t understand. They still view briefings as a favor to reporters (whom they hate), giving them a chance to preen on national television, asking snarky questions. When, in fact, reporters are not the ones who benefit from briefings the most.

First, daily briefings are critical to the American people, who deserve to know, straight from the source, what their government is up to and why. But, most importantly, briefings are important to the administration itself: It’s the only way they can get their message out every day — clear, strong, unfiltered — to the American people. That was never more apparent than this week, when the president, secretary of Defense and secretary of State all offered different reasons why Trump gave the orders to assassinate Qassem Soleimani.

There’s only one way to fix the White House’s muddled message machine: Fire Stephanie Grisham. Bring back daily briefings.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”