‘Give us any question about it because I think it’s important for the public to know…’
(Liberty Headlines) President Donald Trump has a new daily ritual now that the pandemic has put the kibosh on the signature campaign rallies that helped him get elected four years ago: the coronavirus briefing.
Standing on the once-abandoned White House briefing room stage flanked by public health experts, Trump holds court with reporters and directly addresses the American people, providing updates on his administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic and trying to demonstrate that he’s in charge.
The updates are far more staid than his raucous rallies and lack the adoring crowds and “Lock her up!” chants of the political gatherings. But they include many of the same features as his mass rallies: plenty of self-congratulation, airing of grievances and poking at the anti-Trump press.
“I don’t want to stand here for two hours and do this,” Trump told reporters during Monday’s marathon briefing, which stretched to nearly two hours. “But I think it’s important. … Give us any question about it because I think it’s important for the public to know.”
Now, every day of the week, including Tuesday, when he sat down for a separate Fox News town hall in the Rose Garden, Trump emerges from behind closed doors and reads a summary of his administration’s latest efforts.
Then he opens things up for questions, and the discussion can go in many directions.
Some around Trump have suggested that less is more — that he only attend the briefings when there is big news to announce.
“You want to keep the air of importance any time he steps into the room,” said former Trump communications aide Jason Miller.
But Trump has told people that he knows the nation is watching and that he doesn’t want to give up the stage to deputies, who in some cases have refuted his commentary in real time on stage.
“I’ll see you all tomorrow,” he assured as he left the stage Tuesday.
Indeed, the briefings have racked up ratings.
During five of last week’s briefings, more than twice as many people tuned in to the networks than had during corresponding times a year ago, according to the Nielsen viewer tracking company.
And Friday’s lunchtime briefing reached 8.28 million viewers on Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC alone — up from 2.82 million viewers during the same slot last year.
It’s a dramatic resurgence for a format that had become must-see TV during the early months of Trump’s administration. But he effectively killed the White House press briefing in March 2019 and it has now been more than a year since the last briefing by a White House press secretary.
Trump has said he believes the White House updates build confidence in the federal response while providing officials with fresh ideas.
“Some of the questions lead to us solving a problem. You bring up problems that people didn’t know existed,” he said Monday.
The daily spots have allowed Trump to dominate the airwaves while his chief Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has largely ceded the spotlight to Trump the last two weeks. The former vice president told supporters during a virtual fundraiser Monday that his campaign has been working to set up an at-home studio to allow for him to do more live events and interviews. While it’s been “a little slow getting out of the gate to be able to do it correctly,” Biden said they should expect to see more of him going forward.
Indeed on Tuesday, Biden appeared live on ABC’s “The View” and CNN from his home studio.
“Americans want to see their president out front and leading, in command of the effort to keep the country safe,” said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh. “That’s exactly what President Trump is doing.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.