Watchdogs urge White House to stop hiding behind "cowardly" bully pulpit and televise briefings


It's time for the Trump administration to stop "hiding behind the bully pulpit" and meet the press — on camera — according to a major good government group.

Washington watchdog organization Common Cause called out the White House press office on Tuesday for refusing to allow broadcasting of the daily briefing session with the media.

"The camera and live audio bans are part of a disturbing pattern out of the Trump administration to attack institutions that serve as a check on power," the non-partisan organization, which claims more than 700,000 members nationwide, said in a letter addressed to White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

The White House has periodically curtailed video and audio airing of the daily press briefing, which has long been carried live not only by networks, but by the White House itself.

On Monday, Trump ignored shouted questions from reporters following a joint appearance in the Rose Garden with the prime minister of India.

Recently, Trump's press office, which has had a prickly relationship with the media, even went so far as to label the president's daily schedule, traditionally released to correspondents the previous evening, as "not reportable."

In Tuesday's letter, Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn wrote Spicer, who has said some briefings will be televised while others won't, that "the camera and live audio bans smack of contempt for the First Amendment as well as the American people."

In a statement accompanying the letter, Flynn ripped the Trump Administration for "closing ranks amidst a flurry of scandals" precisely when it should be increasing transparency instead.

“This is not how an elected government behaves in a true democracy. Even on those occasions when cameras are allowed in the briefings, White House spokespeople regularly refuse to answer questions by claiming ignorance on a host of topics including those that a seventh grade civics class could have anticipated," Flynn wrote.

"Hiding behind the bully pulpit is a cowardly act far beneath the dignity of the office of the president.”

Tuesday's briefing, set for 2 p.m., was to occur on camera and feature Spicer and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, per a White House advisory.

The guidance was labelled as for "immediate release," versus "not reportable."

Ultimately, however, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared in Spicer's stead.