Ex-CNN Chief: WH On-Camera Briefings ‘Could Be Cut Back’

walter isaacson aspen
Aspen Institute

On Wednesday, former CNN chief Walter Isaacson said, contrary to what many of his peers in the political and media establishment think, on-camera White House briefings could be “cut back.”

In an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the president of the Aspen Institute acknowledged his view was “heretical,” but he insisted that he would prefer more background briefings because “everybody performs” when the cameras are turned on.

Isaacson agreed with Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg when Goldberg said that he would trade 10 White House briefings for one press conference with President Donald Trump.

“Jousting with the press secretary doesn’t really get us that far to understanding things better,’ Isaacson said, adding that it made “total sense” to have more weekly presidential press conferences and background briefings that last hours instead of people trying to “joust on camera.”

When Mitchell appeared like she was trying to get Isaacson to push for more on-camera briefings, Isaacson said, “I’m going to say something that’s heretical. I think the on-camera briefings could be cut back.”

As the White House has cut back its on-camera briefings, CNN’s Jim Acosta has been one of the most prominent whiners. He recently said, “this isn’t how we do things in this country.” This week, he pestered White House press secretary Sean Spicer in an off-camera briefing. His network even sent in a sketch artist for one of Spicer’s off-camera briefings.

“Maybe we should turn the cameras on. Sean, why don’t we turn the cameras on, why don’t we turn the cameras on?” Acosta whined. “Why not turn the cameras on Sean? They’re in the room, the lights are on.”

Spicer, in a Fox News interview over the weekend, said Acosta is “sad that he believes if it doesn’t occur on TV — I think some of these reporters are more interested in their YouTube clips than they are in getting factual news. You look at the number of questions asked over and over again just so the reporter can get a clip of themselves saying something or yelling at someone.”

Goldberg also seemed to suggest to Mitchell that the establishment press may be better served having better fact-checking and ideological diversity. Over the weekend, Mitchell admitted that she and her fellow insular, near-sighted, ideologically homogenous and conventional colleagues in the establishment press “never saw” Trump’s election coming.

“We have to do better,” Mitchell reportedly told the LA Press Club after accepting a “lifetime achievement” award.


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