Margaret Sullivan, the former public editor of the New York Times and current Washington Post columnist, wrote a scathing op-ed about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ performance from the press podium Tuesday, noting the usually on-point press secretary “oozed contempt” when discussing respect for women.
Sullivan said Huckabee Sanders, in her defense of the White House’s botched response to the Rob Porter scandal, spoke to reporters “like an exasperated teacher reprimanding a classroom troublemaker.”
“Watching the press secretary at Monday’s briefing, the words that came to mind were these: A new low,” Sullivan wrote. “Yes, a new rock bottom from the podium at the Trump White House press briefing.”
Sullivan noted that reaching “a new rock bottom” was a feat, considering Huckabee Sanders’ predecessors, Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci. “But she did it,” Sullivan wrote. “Time after time Monday, Sanders stuck to her pallid script, repeating without elaboration the words she said the president had told her to say, expressing his supposed support for domestic violence victims, although just days before he seemed much more sympathetic to those accused of abuse, specifically his deposed aide Rob Porter.”
She also related Tuesday’s press conference to an incident last year, when Trump said Sen. Kirsten Gellibrand (D-NY) would “do anything” for campaign contributions before he was president.
“When asked in the briefing whether that didn’t sound an awful lot like sexual innuendo, Sanders turned the tables, telling the reporter, ‘Your mind is in the gutter,’” Sullivan wrote.
The veteran reporter said Huckabee Sanders’ performance is indicative of the diminished value of press briefings.
“To state the obvious: Holding powerful people and institutions accountable is the chief role of journalism in this country, and a crucial one,” Sullivan wrote. ‘White House press briefings have never been the best place for that. They have always been spin chambers, but have served a limited purpose.”
But, she argued, under Huckabee Sanders, they’re even worse.
“With her dismissive gestures, her curled-lip sneers, her ready insults and guilt-free lies, Sanders is a conduit — a tool — for Trump’s own abusive relationship with journalists,” Sullivan wrote, wondering if reporters really need to “keep coming back for more.”