White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer set the groundwork for establishing a new relationship between the Trump administration and the media at his first official press conference. Media was in a tizzy over Spicer’s decision to break from tradition from the moment he took questions. Instead of giving the representative of the Associated Press the first question, as was the tradition, Spicer chose to call on a reporter for the tabloid New York Post. Following that, he called on Christian Broadcasting Network, Univision, and Fox News.
Some members of the media were not amused.
Lesley Clark of the McClatchy news organization tweeted, “New York Post, not AP as tradition has dictated, gets the first question at Press Secretary briefing.” Mike Grynbaum of The New York Times tweeted, “Priorities, Day 1: Spicer calls on NY Post, CBN, Univision, Fox News. So far top newspapers & broadcast networks shut out.” Doug Sovern of KCBS noted on Twitter, “Traditionally, AP gets first question. All out the window.”
Spicer announced that the White House was introducing more innovation. Spicer reiterated that the White House seeks “big viewerships and large audiences.” To do that, the White House is offering more access to journalists around the country, he said. “I’m excited to announce we’re going to have four what we call “Skype Seats” live here in the briefing room. This will open up the briefing to journalists who live beyond 50 miles of the Washington, D.C. area…”
Spicer said that the White House is excited about opening up the field to a “diverse group of journalists from around the country who may not have the convenience or funding to travel to Washington. I think this can benefit us all by giving a platform to voices that are not necessarily based here in the Beltway.”
Spanish language on White House website
Spicer was asked whether pages in Spanish would be reintroduced to the White House website. These disappeared when the website switched from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. Spicer said that White House technicians are “continuing to build out the website” and that filling it out completely “will take time.” He appeared to convey that Spanish would return.
Martin Luther King tweet
On Inauguration Day, Time Magazine reporter Zeke Miller reported that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. that had been in the Oval Office throughout the Obama administration had gone missing. Not long afterward, Miller sent out a correction, noting that the bust had probably been obscured by a Secret Service agent in an image he saw. Miller apologized to his colleagues and directly to Spicer, who wrote on Twitter that he had accepted it.
Spicer referred to the report after being asked by a reporter whether everything that he says from the lectern will be the truth. He said that the White House deserves apologies when incorrect information is published. On January 21, Trump called out Miller publicly during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters.
“We had a tweet go out about Martin Luther King,” Spicer said. “Think about how racially charged that is.”
During the press conference, Spicer asked, “Where was the apology to the president of the United States?” Without specifying Miller by name, Spicer asked “Where was the apology to millions of people who read that and thought how racially insensitive it was? Where was that apology?” Miller was in the briefing room at that moment.
Near the beginning of the press conference, ABC reporter Jonathan Karl asked Spicer “Is it your intention to always tell the truth from that podium. And will you pledge never to knowingly say something that is not factual?” Spicer said that is his intention to tell the truth always, and that the relationship between the press office and media will be a two-way street. He said that issuing a correction does not mean that someone was trying to mislead the public.