Reince Priebus, who President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to be his chief of staff, says that “change is going to happen” with some of the White House’s traditional ways of interacting with the press corps.
On Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Wednesday, Priebus specifically cited the daily press briefing — usually held by the press secretary around 1 p.m. ET and lasting for about a hour.
“I think that many things have to change, and I think that it’s important that we look at all of those traditions that are great, but quite frankly, as you know, don’t really make news. And they’re just sort of mundane, boring episodes,” Priebus said. “And you know, even looking at things like the daily White House briefing from the press secretary, I mean, there’s a lot of different ways that things can be done, and I can assure you we’re looking at that.”
The briefing has been traditionally an opportunity for members of the press corps to query the press secretary not just on the day’s major breaking news, but a variety of different topics. The briefing is typically covered by C-SPAN and streamed on the White House website.
Priebus also talked about another tradition — the assigned seating in the press room, claiming that it started with 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,” he said. “But for the most part, the more formalized reserved seating piece came in over the last eight years. That issue is being talked about.”
He added, “The point of all of this conversation is that the traditions, while some of them are great, I think it’s time to revisit a lot of these things that have been done in the White House, and I can assure you that change is going to happen, even on things that might seem boring like this topic, but also change as far as how we’re going to approach tax reform, the American worker, how we protect them and business all at the same time while skyrocketing our economy.”
The White House Correspondents Assn. expressed “concern” over Priebus’ comments. In a statement, WHCA president Jeff Mason said that there was a “notable factual inaccuracy” in his claim that assigned seating started in the Obama administration. In fact, “news organizations have had assigned seats since those seats were installed in 1981. That was not an Obama era innovation as Mr. Priebus suggested.” The WHCA, he noted, assumed responsibility for assigning seats over the past two decades.
“The WHCA looks forward to meeting with the incoming administration to address questions and concerns on both sides about exactly this sort of issue,” he said.
Trump has not yet named a press secretary, although names such as Laura Ingraham, his national campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson. and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley are said to be among those being considered, along with Sean Spicer, the spokesman for the Republican National Committee.