Amid the White House gradually shutting out journalists and reports that Sean Spicer is looking for a way out of his role, Steve Bannon had a bizarre explanation for the press secretary’s disappearing press briefings.
“Sean got fatter,” the White House chief strategist told The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray.
Bannon did not respond to a follow-up question, Gray wrote.
In recent weeks, the White House has embarked on a concerning pattern of restricting press access, opting to hold fewer press briefings and taking fewer questions from reporters.
The White House press secretary traditionally holds daily, on-camera briefings, but under Spicer, the White House has briefed reporters in increasingly more restricted settings, such as off-camera “gaggles” in which reporters cannot broadcast video or audio of the press secretary’s answers.
The last time Spicer publicly briefed reporters on camera was last Monday, June 12.
Each evening, the White House sends reporters the White House schedule for the following day. As of Monday evening, there was no briefing of any kind listed. On Tuesday morning, it announced that Spicer would give an on-camera briefing that day.
Following yet another restricted briefing on Monday, CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta pilloried the Trump administration for “stonewalling” the press and the public, calling on reporters to take collective action.
Acosta noted that Spicer’s briefings have increasingly become shorter and “basically pointless.”
“It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “It just feels like we’re sort of slowly but surely being dragged into a new normal in this country where the president of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions.”
Spicer often will not answer even basic questions about the president, claiming that “I haven’t spoken to” the president” or that the commander in chief’s “tweet speaks for itself.”
On Monday, asked if President Donald Trump still believes climate change is a “hoax,” Spicer said that he had not asked the president, according to tweets from reporters present at the briefing, because it was restricted.
In response to whether Trump will reveal, once and for all, whether he has “tapes” of fired FBI director James Comey, which he first alleged over a month ago, Spicer demurred, saying it was “possible” that the White House would say “at the end of the week.”