The media may no longer be permitted to gather in the White House press room.
BY EMMA STEFANSKY
JANUARY 15 Vanity Fair
The ongoing cold war between the incoming Trump Administration and the nation’s news organizations has found a new battleground: the White House press room. The venue, itself a metaphor for the First Amendment, has been a fixture in the White House since the Nixon era, when the press was given an official combined workspace and briefing area. In fact, its roots date back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt, who first ensured that the incipient news media had some sort of permanent space to cover the Oval Office from within the president’s very inner sanctum.
But Donald Trump’s transition team may have other plans. As Peter J. Boyer reported for Esquire this weekend, Trump’s team is considering evicting journalists from the White House. Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer told Boyer that there had been “no decision,” but that “there has been some discussion about how to do it.” The reason for a relocation, according to Spicer, would be logistical. Under one plan, the press would be relocated to the White House Conference Center, near Lafayette Square, or the Old Executive Office Building next door.“There’s been so much interest in covering a President Donald Trump,” he said. “A question is: Is a room that has forty-nine seats adequate? When we had that press conference the other day, we had thousands of requests, and we capped it at four hundred. Is there an opportunity to potentially allow more members of the media to be part of this? That’s something we’re discussing.”
Another senior official from inside the team, however, offered a different motivation for the potential move. “They are the opposition party,“ he told Esquire. “I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.“
Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told ABC’s This Week that the press would most likely be moved to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is still within the White House and holds 150 seats. “The only thing that’s been discussed is whether or not the initial press conferences are going to be in that small press room. For the people listening to this that don’t know this, the press room that people see on TV is very, very tiny — 49 people fit in that press room.”
This comes just days after Trump, during his first official press conference as President-Elect, refused to answer a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, labeling him “fake news.” Now, with this latest twist, the news media either faces being distanced from the president or forced to deal with a new set of politics surrounding who gets each of those 49 seats. At the very least, Trump appears serious in his effort to undermine the media. To what extent the media will reciprocate?