Initially, Garrett noted that he doesnt like to “critique other journalists in the way they ask and seek answers to their questions,” adding that he simply does his own work in the way he sees fit.
I certainly dont want you to critique one of your colleagues there in the press room. I guess I ask a broader question then. Taking Jim Acosta out of it, would you agree, Major Garrett, that there is a standard of conduct, there is [an] expected behavior from a White House correspondent that I think all of you would agree upon, right?
There is – no question about it. Its the most majestic political place in America, the White House. The only place second to that in my experience where I spent almost 15 years [is] the United States Congress. Its a little bit more rough and tumble there. It can be rough and tumble at times in the White House. But it is a place of institutional heft and commands institutional respect – and I will say on my behalf, the previous press conference we had with President Trump in the Rose Garden, the president looked at me, I thought he called on me, I stood up, the White House aide handed me the microphone, I began to speak to the President of the United States, President Trump looked at me and said, “No, behind you. Kaitlan [Collins],” with CNN.
Video: CNNs Jim Acosta returns to the White House (C-SPAN)
So I said, “Oh,” and what did I do? I handed back the microphone. Now, some of my colleagues might say, “What [did] you do that for? You had the microphone; you have a voice; you can speak.” The President of the United States said “not you.” To my way of thinking, thats enough. The president said, I didnt call on you, I called on somebody else. Alright then – and I didnt get a question that press conference. Some might say, “Well, you laid down,” and “you were too deferential.” I dont feel that way…
So I deferred, hoping he might call on me again. He didnt. Thats how I orient myself to the institution. The person who occupies that institution is chosen by the country, and I respect the institution and the countrys choice, and Im there to – on behalf of everyone – ask questions and, most importantly, Larry, get answers.
Thats the whole part of this transaction. If youre not getting answers, then I think [theres] part of the job thats not reaching its fullest capability…
The Supreme Court has opted to hear arguments over President Trumps administrations decision to add a question of citizenship to the 2020 census, despite the controversial question already undergoing a trial in New York. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the addition in March, originally saying the Justice Department ordered the move. Emails later showed other White House officials directed the addition, including former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon. Several state attorneys general then challenged the census question in court. Last month, the Supreme Court refused to allow a deposition of Ross in the New York case. The question has faced criticism from advocates who say undocumented people will avoid answering the census out of fear, leading to undercounts. [The Washington Post, NPR]
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While OConnor commended Garretts answer, he continued to press him on the interaction between Trump and Acosta:
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I guess what I want you to answer is, if you can understand how any American watching what has transpired over the last several weeks – and certainly the last press conference – if we agree that there is an acceptable code of conduct for a White House correspondent, can you understand how an average American watching what transpired there would say, “Well, thats got to breach and go beyond the appropriate code of conduct”? I think that many people watching, setting aside the First Amendment arguments for a moment, would say, “Yeah, I think the president might have a point in saying, I dont wanna deal with this guy anymore.”
Garrett once again replied without directly insulting Acosta – but he also stressed that the role of a White House correspondent is not to be the show, but to ask questions and get answers:
After burning for more than a week, the Camp Fire has left 71 dead and more than 1,000 missing throughout Northern California. Firefighters have contained 50 percent of the blaze as of Friday night, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. The fire has also unleashed some of the dirtiest air in the world to cities hundreds of miles away, leaving air quality as poor as cities in China and India. Its nearly impossible to navigate the fog surrounding the fire, and hospital workers say reports of respiratory complications have surged. Nearly 200 miles away in San Francisco, the citys iconic trolleys have been pulled from the streets and residents have taken to wearing respiratory masks. [The New York Times, CBS News]
They very well might, and my interpretation of that, Larry, is all of these questions are best resolved through the political channels that our country has long developed and long relied upon, and thats why…I do my level best to not put myself or make myself part of the story, and I think the best journalists operate that way.
Trump Is Undermining the Freedom of the Press. Thats an Impeachable Offense.
Because, again, I go back to that fundamental point. Why are you standing up to ask a question in the first place? To get an answer. Whys that answer important? Because it tells the country something it didnt already know. Thats the whole point of this interaction with the American presidency. To inform the public of what they have not yet learned.
WASHINGTON: Why do certain people get press passes to the White House and others dont? Do only certain special people get to exercise their freedom of press rights? On Fox News, A.B. Stoddard said she thought it was wrong that a major news outlet should ever be denied access to the White House and President. Why? Does CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS reporters have the right to demand access to the White House.
President Trump appointee, Federal Judge Timothy Kelly says the White House must give the credential, albeit temporarily, back to Acosta. Furthermore, that the CNN’s chief White House correspondent should be given a chance to redeem himself.
However, how is denying an invitation to attend a political function compare to denying a right? Moreover, by giving Acosta or any of the others in the room access, the ability to demand access are they receiving some right routinely denied to other Americans? What about journalists from publications like CommDigiNews. Do we not all have rights equal to the rights demanded by CNN and Jim Acosta?
A press conference is at the will of the President. A courtesy offered in order to provide information to the press. In 1913 Woodrow Wilson, the story goes, was the first president to invite the press into the White House. He encountered two gentlemen outside the White House, and he invited them in, out of the pouring rain in order to answer their questions.
The first press conference that was taped was by President Eisenhower in 1955. The first live T.V. press conference was in 1961 by President Kennedy.
Over time the number of reporters grew, and with space limited the number of invitations became limited. Of these, some became permanent invitations or passes. Hard passes. Which means access on demand. However, none were ever deemed rights because an invitation is not a right.
Because anyone can apply to attend a press conference. However, there is no guarantee that they will be given access. Because it is not a right. It is a privilege.
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The people do like to hear, publicly from their officials, elected or not, and the press had worked reasonably well as a proxy for the people. Press conferences have taken place in various areas of the White House. However, the White House, the people’s house, is also the home of the current president. Not some reporter’s public park or playground.
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Firm direct questions are fine since the attendees have been invited, but rudeness as a guest in anyone’s home is, to many of us, still a shabby exercise.
Moreover, it matters not that any, or many, of the reporter friends, suborn boorish conduct. When Acosta, or any other invited press official acts boorish or rudely to the President, they are representing the people of America who support the President and find the onslaught of repetition (Russia, Stormy Daniels, Robert Mueller, etc.) disgraceful.
In the relatively brief history of these conferences, there has been, on occasion, the lout who attempts to play the fictional Torchy Blane, the hard-hitting reporter who asks the tough questions, and gets the big story.
The press conference has evolved since the Nixon administration with presidents of both parties structuring it for the best public relations and political advantage.
So when silly little men like Jim Acosta stand before another man as a guest in his home and acts like Rasputin, the mad monk, he has no one to blame but himself if he is asked to leave and not come back.
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As for A.B Stoddard, I don’t know if she has ever been invited to a Presidential press conference, but perhaps she could read up a bit from Emily Post’s advice on basic etiquette.
Born in Mississippi, now calling Texas home, Paul H. Yarbrough is bringing his writing talents to the political arena. Yarbrough has completed three novels. Paul H. Yarbrough is also the humorist behind the weekly column, Redneck Diary.