During a Monday press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders let her dislike of the press shine through, with remarks that were often contemptuous. Margaret Sullivan, a well-respected Washington Post columnist and a former public editor for New York Times didn’t fail to notice.
Sanders seemed exasperated at times, responding to one reporter by saying she already answered numerous questions of his. However, all she really did was give him her trademark non-answers. Sanders’ responses were a ham-fisted attempt to defend the White House’s equally ham-fisted responses to the Rob Porter scandal. She responded to the reporter’s question with a scolding tone in her voice:
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“If you were paying attention to what I just read to you…”
Sullivan was paying attention, and said of Sanders’ behavior:
“Watching the press secretary at Monday’s briefing, the words that came to mind were these: a new low. … Yes, a new rock bottom from the podium at the Trump White House press briefing.”
That’s pretty remarkable, she noted, considering who her predecessors were, saying:
“[Especially] given the lying-from-day-one reign of Sean Spicer, along with Sanders’s own fulsome history of dissembling, and the 10-day flameout of Anthony Scaramucci last summer.”
But Sanders is rarely more than a puppet for her boss, parroting everything she’s told to say, with little or no explanation as to why she said it.
“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.”
Then there was the instance in which Trump insulted Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) last year, by saying that she would “do anything” for campaign contributions before he became president, insinuating she would have sex for campaign contributions.
Sanders responded with her usual insults when one reporter asked her to comment. She wrote of Sanders:
“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.'”
And even though this press secretary is one of the most prominent women in the administration, she does nothing to elevate women or to teach the sexual harassers (including her boss) to treat women with respect.
She acts like an enabler instead, actions also not lost on Sullivan:
“You might think as one of the most visible women in the Trump administration, Sanders would bring some credibility — maybe even sympathy — to bear on subjects related to respect for women.”
Really, in so many ways it seems like Sanders doesn’t really have a mind of her own. And for the veteran journalist, Sander’s robotic responses are a sad reminder of the diminishing importance of press briefings under this administration.
“To state the obvious: Holding powerful people and institutions accountable is the chief role of journalism in this country, and a crucial one. White House press briefings have never been the best place for that. They have always been spin chambers, but have served a limited purpose.”
And she doesn’t believe Sanders has improved the situation. Sanders is little more than a bad habit used far too often by this administration. Sullivan added:
“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.”
She references Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, who suggested perhaps this is a good reason to send the interns. The briefings, he noted:
“…Are so devoid of substance, so predictably filled with lies, that they aren’t a valid use of top reporters’ time.”
Press briefings have turned into little more than opportunities for the administration to insult journalists, he noted.
“The more the press does the job [it] has traditionally done, the better the put-down script becomes.”
And that led Sullivan to wonder if journalists should really “keep coming back for more.”
Maybe it is time to send in the interns. They are young and idealistic, and it might give other journalists time to dig up stories that really make Sanders nervous. It would be a start.
You can watch Monday’s press conference in the video below.
Featured image via YouTube video.