Reporters are complaining that the White House is deliberately using inexperienced right-wing bloggers to turn Sean Spicer’s daily briefings into a chaotic shouting match.
Brand-name reporters, including White House correspondents from TV networks and major newspapers, are traditionally assigned front-row seats, while less experienced “floaters” take leftover seats on a first-come, first-served basis, reported The New Yorker.
But those floaters have been used so far to sow confusion and noise into Spicer’s daily briefings, which have become a “Saturday Night Live” punchline and whose C-SPAN broadcast have become one of the highest-rated daytime TV programs.
“It’s becoming a form of court-packing,” one White House correspondent told the magazine’s Andrew Marantz.
CBS News correspondent Major Garrett, who sits in the front row, said the briefing room has historically been organized to reward seniority — which he said press secretaries have also recognized.
“(Experienced reporters) ask questions that are sharper, more informed,” Garrett said, “not, ‘What’s your message today?’ Not, ‘Here’s a paintbrush — would you paint us a pretty picture?’”
Another TV correspondent, who declined to speak on the record, said that arrangement has a purpose besides flattering the egos of political correspondents.
“It’s also about maintaining a sense of predictability, a sense that eventually the substantive questions will be answered,” that correspondent told the magazine. “Throwing that into chaos — ‘Maybe you’ll get a question, if you shout loud enough, who knows?’— makes everyone desperate and competitive and makes us look like a bunch of braying jackals. Which I don’t think is an accident.”
Most of the floaters are younger than 30, lack journalism experience and come from pro-Trump media outlets — which another TV reporter “from a mainstream network” appreciates, to a point.
“I don’t mind them bringing in conservative voices that they feel have been underrepresented,” that TV reporter said. “Personally, I don’t even mind them f*cking with the front-row guys, the Jonathan Karls of the world. Those guys are a smug little cartel, and it’s fun to watch them squirm, at least for a little while.”
But he said those conservative reporters seem to be included for another reason besides ideological diversity.
“At what point does it start to delegitimize the whole idea of what happens in that room?” the reporter told The New Yorker. “When does it cross the line into pure trolling?”