Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a radio interview Thursday that Donald Trump would hold press conferences while in office, but “business as usual is over” when it comes to how the president-elect will communicate with media and the public.
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked the former Republican National Committee chief strategist and communications director if Trump would hold press conferences as regularly as his predecessors. Spicer replied that the president-elect couldn’t ditch the events entirely because they’re “part of the fabric of our country,” but would look for other ways, specifically through social media, to communicate with the American people.
“And so maybe we do, you know, a series of press conferences, but maybe we do some town hall, you know, Facebook town halls. Maybe we go out and solicit input from Twitter,” Spicer said. “While we have to sort of do these press conferences because they’re part of the fabric of our country, if you will, there are also some new opportunities that we can be utilizing to bring more people into the process and have a conversation with the American people and not just limit it through the filter of the mainstream media.”
Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, made similar remarks on Hewitt’s show earlier this month, saying traditions like daily press briefings are being reassessed and may be changed.
Trump held a brief question-and-answer session outside his Florida resort Wednesday, but hasn’t held a full press conference since July. He scheduled a news conference about his business conflicts of interest for this month, only to then push it back to January.
Trump’s press conference drought during the transition period breaks with tradition, as does his choice not to allow a “protective pool” of reporters. The president-elect’s relationship with the press has been contentious since long before the election. During his campaign, he repeatedly blacklisted outlets from his events, verbally attacked specific reporters and threatened to sue over critical stories, making some journalists fear that his presidency will usher in an erosion of First Amendment rights.
Despite his repeated complaints about mainstream media bias, Trump has received an overwhelming amount of both critical and positive coverage, including a number of stories that seem to play right into his hands.
Spicer alluded to Trump’s media savvy Thursday, saying he has a “strategic understanding of how to drive a message” and understands the media and communications “probably better than anyone in modern American history.”
Spicer also lobbed a blow at The New York Times, one of Trump’s frequent targets, suggesting Trump would keep allowing its reporters access despite purported bias because of the “few thousand readers or so left that still look at” the paper. (The Times has over 2.5 million subscribers and has sold around 170,000 new subscriptions since the election, according to Politico.)