Sean Spicer, the senior communications advisor for Donald Trump’s presidential transition team and a leading candidate to become White House press secretary, said Thursday night that the incoming president would “absolutely not” kick out news organizations in response to critical coverage.
This is an understandable fear given how the Trump campaign blacklisted nearly a dozen outlets through much of the election. In addition to denying some news organizations press credentials, the campaign sometimes placed unusual restrictions on journalists once inside.
During an interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, Spicer said Trump would not “bounce” reporters from the briefing room and “has a healthy belief in the First Amendment.”
“If so healthy, why’d he ban them during the campaign?” Kelly responded.
Spicer suggested there was a difference between denying access to the White House and events “paid for by the campaign” and held in “private” venues.
Though reporters denied press credentials could often attend Trump rallies by entering with the general public, the campaign, at times, prevented ticket-holding journalists from doing so or removed them while they covered the event.
“So if the New York Times does a scathing editorial on President Trump, they’re still going to let the New York Times reporters in the press briefing room and have access just the same as all the other news organizations,” Kelly asked.
“They’re in the [press] pool right now and they still have scathing editorials and pretty poor reporting,” Spicer responded.
“So yes, the answer to my question is yes?” she continued.
“Yes,” Spicer said. “Absolutely.”
Spicer, who served as communications director for the Republican National Committee during the campaign, is a top candidate for the press secretary job, along with the Daily Mail’s David Martosko and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.
Former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said she turned down the job, though is expected to land a senior position in the administration.
No matter who takes the job, it’s likely the incoming White House team will try to make changes when it comes to the traditional ways of engaging the press corps.
Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said Wednesday that the Trump team is reassessing customs like the daily televised press briefing and seating arrangement (though the latter has traditionally been overseen by the White House Correspondents Association).
On Fox News, Spicer said the new White House team has “to look at everything” when it comes to press briefings and suggested they may not need to be held daily or televised. “I think that’s a view shared by a lot of former White House press secretaries, a view by some in the media, in fact, that the White House press briefings have become somewhat of a spectacle,” he said.
Mike McCurry, a White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, has recently said that his decision to allow the briefings to be televised was a mistake. He suggested the briefings have become too much of a show” and also believes they should generally be embargoed until after completion.
Spicer said Thursday that “maybe there’s a more effective way of delivering the news and having a more appropriate, adult conversation with the media to inform them of the candidate’s actions.”