Press: Why do we need a new press secretary?

Press: Why do we need a new press secretary?
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My advice to my colleagues in the White House press corps: Don’t waste your time speculating about who will be the new White House press secretary, replacing the feckless Sarah HuckabeeSarah Elizabeth SandersBiden pledges return to daily press briefings as president Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House 'with my head held high' Trump directs Pentagon to develop policy allowing service academy athletes to go pro right away MORE Sanders. Several names have been suggested, including deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley and Stephanie Grisham, press secretary for first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpDesigner defends Melania Trump statue: 'People may laugh but the context still resonates' Melania Trump heading to West Virginia to discuss opioid epidemic Wood-carved statue of Melania Trump erected in her Slovenian hometown MORE. Rumors abound that President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE’s also hoping to recruit someone from Fox News.

Again, my advice: Don’t waste your time. The real question is not: Who will be the new White House press secretary? The real question is: Do we even need a White House press secretary? And the answer is a resounding NO, NO, NO!

First, let’s be honest. Of all the White House press secretaries I’ve seen, known and covered — under Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump — Sanders is by far the very worst. Granted, it’s one of the toughest jobs in the White House because of the built-in conflict. Every administration tries to control the news, providing as little information as possible, while reporters always try to expand the news, demanding as much information as possible. There’s always a lot of tension, with the press secretary caught in the crossfire.

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But briefings under Sanders were not just tense, they were downright hostile. Under her tenure, briefings almost always started late, lasted only an average 15-20 minutes, and quickly degenerated into all-out warfare. Treating every legitimate question as an outright attack on Trump, Sanders responded with sarcasm, vitriol or counterattack, accusing reporters of being lazy, ill-informed or simply “fake news.”

But, of course, I’m talking about ancient history: back in the days when they actually scheduled White House briefings. No longer. Press secretaries used to brief daily, except when the president was out of town. Under Sanders, briefings became more and more infrequent. She held only two in October 2018, one in November and one in December. And so far, she’s only briefed from the briefing room podium twice in 2019, the last one on March 11, 99 days ago. 

Her briefings will be remembered, however, not just for how rare they were, but how untrustworthy. Reporters soon discovered you could not count on Sanders to tell the truth, any more than you could trust Trump himself. Two of her more blatant lies, in fact, are immortalized on page 72 of the Mueller report. Under oath, Sanders told the special counsel that her statement that the administration had heard from “countless FBI agents” unhappy with then-Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyHannity invites Ocasio-Cortez to join prime-time show for full hour The Hill's 12:30 Report: Acosta under fire over Epstein plea deal White House repeatedly blocks ex-aide from answering Judiciary panel questions MORE was merely a “slip of the tongue” and that her insistence that rank-and-file agents had “lost confidence” in Comey was not founded on anything.

Which gets back to the question: Who should replace Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Answer: NOBODY. Don’t get me wrong. Of course, White House briefings are important. They’re the best way for the administration to get its message out, unfiltered, every day. And they’re the only way for the American people to know what our government’s up to. Both the White House and the public suffer when there are no briefings.

But, no matter how important, you don’t need a White House press secretary when you have no White House briefings, which is the press secretary’s main job. And you don’t need an official White House press secretary when the president himself is the de facto press secretary, tweeting 20 times a day. 

Donald Trump doesn’t need any press secretary to lie for him. He does a good enough job, lying for himself.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” His Twitter handle is @BillPressPod. He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”