Conservatives are arguing that the White House should once again take the press briefings dark after Wednesday’s on-camera event turned into a shouting match between a White House aide and members of the media.
White House policy adviser Stephen Miller engaged in a heated back-and-forth with two of the administration’s biggest media nemeses — CNN and The New York Times — provoking some in conservative circles to declare that it was a mistake to give reporters the exposure they crave by broadcasting the daily briefings.
“Anyone still want to argue against my position that the White House briefing shouldn’t be televised?” wrote the well-known conservative blogger Allahpundit at Hot Air.
“What happened here is simple: Reporters knew they were going to go toe-to-toe today with one of the few committed nationalists in the White House on the pet issue of the populist right, the one that helped Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE get elected and turned Steve Bannon into a power broker," Allahpundit wrote. "They had to make their opposition plain, if not to the average person watching than at least to their colleagues in the media who would have torched them for not questioning Miller aggressively. This reeks of 'virtue-signaling' even more than it does of standard media bias.”
In a break with tradition, the White House largely stopped televising the press briefings under former press secretary Sean Spicer.
The briefings pulled huge ratings on television but often devolved into shouting and accusations between White House aides and the press. Spicer complained that reporters were grandstanding and looking to make a name for themselves by becoming entrenched as the opposition.
The briefings came back on the air under former communications director Anthony Scaramucci, whose ascendance led to the resignations of Spicer and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
But Scaramucci has since been fired by new chief of staff John Kelly, and it's unclear what direction the White House will take going forward. The White House has said it will continue to do a mix of on-camera and off-camera briefings and will look for new ways to get the president's message out.
On Wednesday, the press seemed to confirm the suspicions held by many on the right that the media is hostile to the Trump administration and spoiling for a fight.
Miller sparred with CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who sought to cast the administration’s immigration policy as un-American by reading a portion of the Emma Lazarus poem engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Miller accused Acosta of “cosmopolitan bias” and noted that the poem he had read was not originally on the Statue of Liberty.
Acosta then accused Miller of “national parks revisionism.” He later went on the air to call the administration’s immigration policies racist and said Trump is obsessed with the "three Ms": Mexicans, Muslims and the media.
Miller also got into a heated exchange with New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush. Thrush demanded Miller give statistics and specific studies to back up the White House and Republicans' new immigration plan. The two spent several minutes talking over one another.
“I’m not asking for common sense,” Thrush said at one point. “I’m asking for specific statistical data.”
"I think it's pretty clear, Glenn, that you're not asking for common sense,” Miller shot back.
Conservatives on sites such as The Federalist and Hot Air were apoplectic over the exchanges, accusing mainstream reporters of taking sides in a policy battle and preening for one another on-camera. Many are now calling for the White House to take the briefings off-camera once again.
CNN's Jim Acosta just put on a master class on why the WH press room cameras should be permanently disabled. https://t.co/h5g4KjFNcs— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) August 2, 2017
"If Acosta wants to make speeches about Emma Lazarus, he can stand in front of his bathroom mirror and talk into a banana." https://t.co/PNVvw0FlqB— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) August 2, 2017
This report was updated on Aug. 3 at 7:20 a.m.