Reince Priebus, who will serve as White House chief of staff for Donald Trump, talks about a "new tradition" for the media in the upcoming administration.
WASHINGTON (AP) — One of Donald Trump’s top advisers says the president-elect’s promises to shake up Washington extend to the White House briefing room. But he’s relying on some incorrect facts to argue his case.
Reince Priebus, who will serve as White House chief of staff, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Wednesday that Trump’s team was discussing what the “new tradition” for the media should be in the Republican’s administration. He questioned the need for a daily briefing and seating assignments in the White House briefing room, the familiar stage for presidents and press secretaries to address reporters and the nation.
Priebus said reserved seating for the briefing “as I understand it, started in the Obama administration.”
“In the Bush administration, you just took a seat, and I guess there were a couple of people that have had reserved spots. But for the most part, the more formalized reserved seating piece came in over the last eight years,” he said. “There’s a lot of different ways that things can be done, and I can assure you we’re looking at that.”
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In fact, reserved seating in at least the first few rows has been in place since 1981. Seats were initially assigned by the White House and later by the White House Correspondents’ Association. Both Republicans and Democratic administrations have asked the association to assign seats to avoid the appearance of playing favorites with news organizations, according to Jeff Mason, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
The format of the daily briefing has long been scrutinized by journalists and administration officials alike. But it has remained the most reliable televised opportunity for journalists to question the administration directly and for the White House to disseminate information and respond to criticism.
Ending the seating practice could give the White House the power to reward news organizations whose coverage it views favorably and punish those whose coverage the administration disagrees with.
The Associated Press currently occupies a seat in the front row of the briefing room, along with television networks and the Reuters news service.