Thirteen former aides to past presidential administrations ― including seven White House press secretaries ― penned an open letter for CNN on Friday calling out the lack of press briefings by President Donald Trump’s administration.
The letter comes as media watchdogs noted that 300 days have passed since the public was offered an official White House press briefing from the official White House press secretary ― the post now filled by Stephanie Grisham.
Along with the press secretaries who served under Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the letter’s other signees handled communications and public affairs for the State Department and the Pentagon.
“All of us have experienced the challenges of a regular press briefing whether at the White House, the State Department or the Pentagon,” the letter opens. “We all had days where the last place we wanted to be was behind one of those podiums. But day after day, we persisted.”
“The public has a right to know what its government is doing, and the government has a duty to explain what it is doing,” they wrote, urging Trump’s administration to carry on the tradition of regular briefings despite the president’s fraught relationship with the media.
The message comes a week after Trump escalated tensions with Iran by having U.S. forces kill Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani, prompting Iran to respond with missile strikes that targeted two U.S. bases in Iraq. No casualties have been reported from those strikes.
“In times of military conflict and international crisis, these briefings take on even more importance,” the letter emphasized. “Americans want to know the latest developments and seek the truth. On social media, wild rumors can fly, and our adversaries can manipulate disinformation to their advantage. This is now well documented.”
Shortly after the letter surfaced, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley falsely claimed on Twitter that the Obama administration killed two al Qaeda leaders and a brutal Libyan dictator without a green light from Congress.
The White House Correspondents Association has also voiced their frustration with White House’s lack of transparency. After discovering through a Saudi press release that Trump had met with the county’s defense minister earlier this week, the group said it was fed up.
“A meeting with a foreign leader in the Oval Office should, at the very least, be on the public schedule with a read-out of the meeting released after it is over,” Jonathan Karl, the association’s president, said in a statement Tuesday.
“It is disturbing to see the government of Saudi Arabia have more transparency than the White House about a meeting with the President in the Oval Office,” he said.