The media was a twitter this week with the possibility of President Trump ousting the White House Press Corps from the West Wing.
Rumors floating around include having the Press Corps move their offices to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), which houses the majority of the offices utilized by White House staff. With all the heated back-and-forth and the volatile relationship between Trump and various providers of news, this story is being reported with indignation, exasperation and downright anger at the thought that this is a first step in limiting the freedom of the press. The mere suggestion of such a move has ignited a firestorm.
In thinking of this, I realized that the only in-depth knowledge I have of the activities of the Press Secretary or any of the White House staff and their relationship with the Press Corps, I gleaned from the television series “The West Wing,” but this is not the imagination of Aaron Sorkin.
Since the 1970’s, representatives from broadcast, print and radio outlets have had pretty much unfettered access to press aides and the Press Secretary’s offices. The press could literally see who was coming to and going from the West Wing, which might prompt questions and probing. This possible move would, of course, eliminate that free access, because a pass would be required every time a journalist wanted to enter the White House.
I think everyone should step back and take a breath on this issue of moving the Press Corps. Many new presidents have had strained relationships with the press. Incoming President Bill Clinton, through his Press Secretary George Stephanopoulos, proposed moving the press corps out of the White House at the beginning of his first term. Never happened.
Being a glass-half-filled kinda gal, perhaps such a move wouldn’t be a purely negative thing. Having access to the majority of the White House staff with offices in the EEOB, would then allow the press that unfettered access to those who actually craft the policies of their administrations rather than getting the “Press Secretary’s honed statements on policies.” Isn’t it possible this move just might provide fodder for the elusive “scoop” that all reporters yearn for?
I am not advocating the move. I understand the fear generated by the possible loss of a Press Corps allowed to directly question and probe, daily.
President Obama held his last press conference on Wednesday. On this very topic — in his “no drama Obama” way — he expressed his views on the importance to our democracy of the Constitutional assurance of freedom of the press.
Sean Spicer will be President Trump’s Press Secretary. Many of his predecessors had very contentious relationships with the press. Many former presidents also had seemingly never-ending run-ins with the press.
So, will this move come to pass and signal the erosion of freedom of the press? Beats me. Only time will tell what kind of relationship President Trump, Spicer and the media can forge.