Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked out of the White House’s first briefing of the new year on Thursday without taking any questions, driving reporters into a heckling fury.
Sanders had announced the briefing moments before it began Thursday afternoon, and journalists were taken by surprise when Donald Trump showed up, talked about the wall, and then left without taking any questions. It was his first appearance at the press briefing podium since he took office.
Sanders, Trump walk out on journalists
The ordinarily testy relationship between the White House and its often-hostile press corps has been particularly on edge lately, with reporters calling out questions at Sanders like hecklers at a stand-up comedy show.
Journalists have complained that the White House’s dropping number of press briefings and Sanders’ combative style get in the way of transparency, make it hard for them to do their jobs, and may even constitute an attack on the First Amendment.
The press once again went into hysterics on Thursday, when Sanders showed up at an afternoon briefing with Trump unexpectedly in tow. She had announced the briefing in a tweet minutes before, leaving reporters “scrambling.”
There will be a briefing in the WH briefing room at 4:10pm today.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 3, 2019
Reporters expected an opportunity to ask questions at the briefing, but instead, Trump appeared to discuss his border wall plans for about 10 minutes while surrounded by border patrol representatives who were later mocked on Twitter. Then Trump left, and Sanders followed him out, also without taking any questions.
“You can call it a barrier. You can call it whatever you want. But essentially, we need protection in our country,” Trump said at the presser. “We’re going to make it good. The people of our country want it.”
The trolling continued after the briefing when President Trump posted on Twitter a Game of Thrones parody meme that read: “The Wall Is Coming.”
Journalists freak out
Reporters were apoplectic following the presser. One journalist shouted after Sanders as she left: “Sarah, are you coming back? Are you not taking any questions at all?”
Elsewhere, journalists and pundits criticized the Trump administration’s timing in holding the briefing. Bill Kristol, whose anti-Trump magazine The Weekly Standard recently shut down, said that Trump “couldn’t stand that Nancy Pelosi was the center of attention today” as the former House Speaker once again took the speaker’s gavel.
CNN anchor Brianna Keilar called it a “stunt.”
The @PressSec announced a “briefing,” but did not hold one. Trump spoke, but left without taking any Q’s. A reporter shouted: “Sarah, are you coming back? Are you not taking any questions at all?” She didn’t.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 3, 2019
Indeed, while Trump and his base love Sanders for standing up to the press, journalists have complained that she isn’t accommodating enough to them. Sanders found herself at odds with the press corps in November when the White House canceled the press pass of CNN reporter Jim Acosta only for a court to force the White House to give it back.
Since then, friction between Sanders and the press has only ramped up as journalists have complained that she is cutting off their access to the president and blocking them from doing their jobs. Thursday’s briefing came after Sanders cut off a press briefing short last month, infuriating journalists who wanted to waste more of Sanders’ time with barbed questions and anti-Trump innuendo.
But Sanders’ job is to represent the president and field questions from reporters, not accommodate screaming propagandists with an ax to grind. Until the White House press pool can clean up its act, we can’t blame Sanders or Trump for avoiding them like the plague.