The ugly confrontation was the latest conflict between journalists and the White House press secretary after broadcasters were forbidden from filming most of the month’s press briefings. Spicer and deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders have increasingly chosen off-camera “gaggles,” answering questions from reporters in private settings.
On Monday, CNN’s Jim Acosta began to press Spicer to answer a question about President Donald Trump and Israel, but Spicer interrupted him: “There’s no camera on, Jim.”
Acosta angrily replied: “Maybe we should turn the cameras on. Why don’t we turn the cameras on? Why not turn the cameras on, Sean? They’re in the room, the lights are on ...”
Spicer ignored him and called on another reporter. But soon another journalist returned to Acosta’s query.
“Now we see you on camera about once a week. Is that a new normal that we would expect?” the second journalist asked.
Spicer responded: “We’ll see. We’ll continue to mix things up.”
Then Acosta hammered Spicer again: “Why are the cameras off, Sean? Can you just give us an answer to that? Can you tell us why you turned the cameras off? It’s a legitimate question. You are a taxpayer-funded spokesman for the United States government. Can you at least give us an explanation for why the cameras are off?”
Spicer ignored him.
Then Trey Yingst, a White House correspondent for One America News Network, asked: “Can we get this out of the way? Can we address the cameras issue?”
Spicer responded: “Some days we will have them; some days we won’t.”
Of 15 press briefings held by the White House in June, 10 were off-camera, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News. Three were skipped.
Daily White House press briefings are traditionally televised. The White House Correspondents Association has blasted the change to off-camera briefings.
“We believe strongly that Americans should be able to watch and listen to senior government officials face questions from an independent news media,” association President Jeff Mason wrote in a memo Friday.