CNN’s Acosta on Off-Camera Gaggles: ‘This Isn’t How We Do Things in This Country’

Monday on CNN’s “Newsroom,”  senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta criticized White House press secretary Sean Spicer for holding off-camera, no-audio press gaggles instead of the traditional on-camera daily White House briefings.

Partial transcript as follows:

BALDWIN: Just into CNN, the White House telling reporters in an off-camera briefing a bit about the possibility of tapes being released, perhaps, but it sounds like maybe, not a lot. Jim Acosta is our senior White House correspondent who left the no-camera, no-audio briefing. I saw your tweet. You’re feeling like they are stonewalling?

ACOSTA:  The White House mandated that we are not allowed to cover the White House press secretary for the United States of America in that fashion. So yes, when we’re asking important questions about—where is the tape? Does the president have recordings of conversations here? The White House is refusing to answer those questions on camera or in any kind of fashion where we can record the audio. My guess is because they want their evasive answers not saved for posterity. That is the only conclusion one could draw. That when they give you answers, that it somehow reads better in print than it could be being seen on television or heard over the radio. There were a number of important questions asked about the health care bill that is being cobbled together in the Senate and what the White House has to say about that. You won’t hear or see those answers. The question was asked whether the president has the ability to fire Robert Mueller, you won’t hear or see the answers to those questions. You’ll only be able to read about it. And people will probably go, the media is cry babies, they can’t cover the way they want. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I think the White House for the United States of America should have the questions answered on camera. When they don’t do this, they’re doing a disservice to the people of the country. I don’t want to sound like I’m getting on my soapbox, but when Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, who is pretty highly paid as a White House official, comes in and says you can’t record the video or audio from these briefings — that wouldn’t be tolerated at city council meetings or a governor’s press conference —here we have the representative of the President of the United States saying, ‘No, you can’t cover it that way.’ I just don’t know what we are doing. It’s not even like we are covering a White House with Kellyanne Conway and Omarosa in the briefing room off to the side of Sean refusing to be on camera. It’s just like we are covering bad reality television, is what it feels like now.

BALDWIN: Well, I’m with you. I’m old-fashioned and I stand with you. On your evasive answers note, I understand he gave another evasive answer.

ACOSTA: That’s right. He was asked—because the president said this more than a week ago, he was going to answer this question, where are these tapes? The president said you would find out about that shortly. More has gone by, and Sean Spicer said off camera, no audio, perhaps we’ll have an answer this week. Sean told us in the past he would get an answer whether the president believes in climate change. The question was asked—have you gone back and asked the question to that? He did not have an answer to that question, on a matter that happened a couple weeks ago. So the White House press secretary is getting to a point, Brooke, where he is kind of useless. You know, if he can’t come out and answer the questions and they’re not going to do the audio, why even have they gaggles in the first place?

BALDWIN: Is he not even having conversations with the president? Does he simply not know?

ACOSTA: It’s a really good question, Brooke, a question I would ask, but unfortunately at this White House, we wouldn’t have the video or audio to show you the answer to that question because of the stonewalling we’re getting here at the White House. That’s the White House behind me. The White House. And it’s just—it’s bizarre. I don’t know what world we’re living in where we’re standing at the White House, and they bring us into the briefing room here and they won’t answer these questions on camera or let us record the audio. I don’t know why everybody is going along with this. It just doesn’t make sense, and it just sort of feels like we’re sort of slowly but surely by being dragged into a new normal where the President of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions. He hasn’t had a full-blown press conference since February. He has the two-plus-two press conferences with a foreign head of state where he may take a question from a conservative news media reporter, and maybe somebody from the mainstream. This isn’t how we do things in this country. But for whatever reason, we’re all going along with it. I don’t understand why we covered that gaggle today, quite honestly, Brooke. If they can’t give the answers to the questions on camera or where we can report the audio, they’re basically pointless. You’re not getting the chance to see—are they evading the question? The transcript doesn’t really show that, and I think smart people who have been doing this for a long time understand that.

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN


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