Carney blames TV for combative briefings

White House briefings have become more combative because reporters are looking to get “a crack at a moment on TV,” outgoing White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

“I think, you know, having watched these daily briefings over the days and the years, they’ve become more and more combative,” Carney told MSNBC. “There’s a certain element of theater to them.”

The spokesman, who announced last Friday that he would be leaving the White House after more than three and a half years in the job, noted that his Clinton-era predecessor, Mike McCurry, had apologized for agreeing to televise the daily press conferences.

“I think that has added to the kind of combative nature of the briefing,” Carney said.

Carney said oftentimes reporters will look to engage in “sparring matches” in hopes of getting on television.

“If you watch a briefing in its entirety, I think you’ll be struck about how often the same question is repeated even when they’ve been asked two minutes before or 10 minutes before,” Carney said.

At the same time, Carney said there was “a huge amount of tension” between reporters and the White House when he first started covering the beat for Time magazine during the Clinton administration.

He also said it was important to distinguish between instances where he believed reporters were playing to the television cameras and genuine attempts to seek information from the administration.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the reporters in the briefing room, the folks that try to get it right,” Carney said. 

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