January 16, 2017 at 9:19 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Why Trump’s plan to remove press from White House is anti-LGBT
Donald Trump, gay news, Washington Blade

Donald Trump (Image courtesy C-Span)

The incoming Trump administration has just signaled its first move against the LGBT community. Did you miss it? It was buried under  news of the president-elect’s Twitter rants against civil rights leader John Lewis on MLK Weekend as Democrats and others drop plans to attend the inauguration.

As Esquire first reported over the weekend and Trump adviser Reince Priebus confirmed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Trump team is considering moving the White House press corps from on-site access in the West Wing and to instead hold briefings in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Priebus defended the idea by pointing out the EEOB is on White House grounds, so it isn’t really a move, and would be beneficial because four times the number of reporters would have access.

“I think people should be encouraged that so many people in the press want to participate,” Preibus said. “We had 500 or 600 folks at the press conference last week. We started thinking: ‘Man, if we can have more people involved instead of less, wouldn’t it be a good thing?'”

No, it wouldn’t. The press secretary isn’t going to extend the White House briefing to four times its length to accommodate four times the number of reporters, nor should he, because the briefing would become so bloated it would obscure, rather the clarify, the administration’s views. What would happen with four times the number of reporters is the opportunity for anyone to ask a question would decrease significantly.

As reporter Glenn Thrush pointed out on Twitter, the expulsion of the press corps from the West Wing to the EEOB seems like an invitation to drown out the press with Trump supporters who will create news organizations and send “reporters” to the briefings.

Sean Spicer, the incoming press secretary, foreshadowed the greater number of questioners in the briefing room who would be sympathetic to Trump in a statement explaining the potential move, which apparently hasn’t yet been finalized.

“While no decisions have been made, there is enormous interest in covering Donald Trump and his agenda to improve the lives of every American,” Spicer said. “The current briefing room only has 49 seats so we have looked at rooms within the White House to conduct briefings that have additional capacity to accommodate members of media including talk radio, bloggers and others.”

Another important factor is the symbolic nature of allowing the press corps in the White House with the president — a practice that began with Teddy Roosevelt and continues to this day. Guided by the principles of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, the press is at the White House to heighten its ability to ask the administration tough questions, to be close to key sources and to deliver messages to the American people.

I participated last week in the White House Correspondents Association’s annual town hall, where reporters voiced anxiety about the change because we know the Trump team wants to shake things up and maybe even hold some briefings off camera. A few reporters brought up rumors the Trump team wanted to kick us out of the White House because the incoming administration wants the real estate, but they weren’t considered serious because WHCA President Jeff Mason said that didn’t come up in discussions between the board and the transition team.

Amid news reports with senior administration officials on the record asserting the change could happen, Mason met with Spicer for two hours on Sunday, then issued a statement making clear the position of the press corps.

“I emphasized the importance of the White House press briefing room and noted that it is open to all journalists who seek access now,” Mason said. “I made clear that the WHCA would view it as unacceptable if the incoming administration sought to move White House reporters out of the press work space behind the press briefing room. Access in the West Wing to senior administration officials, including the press secretary, is critical to transparency and to journalists’ ability to do their jobs.”

Here’s why the potential move is anti-LGBT. For eight years of the Obama administration, the Washington Blade used the White House news briefings to get clarity on LGBT rights advances, and, for several years, why they weren’t happening as quickly as many wanted.

There’s a chance — if Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has his way — that we could see much of that progress reversed under Trump. If the Washington Blade were drowned out at the news conference by four times the number of reporters there are now, the opportunity for us to ask questions would be limited, maybe non-existent. I imagine mainstream news outlets that occasionally asked a question on LGBT rights would similarly be drowned out by Trump supporters-turned-reporters in the news briefings.

Our readers would lose a direct line of contact to the White House to highlight any loss of LGBT rights — whether that’s a plan to sign the First Amendment Defense Act, undoing guidance protecting transgender students or the insertion of religious exemptions into regulations barring anti-LGBT discrimination.

The Bill Clinton administration faced criticism during its early years for locking a door that gives reporters access to staffers. That seems quaint in comparison to Trump’s plan to water down coverage of his policies — including any reversal of LGBT rights — by expelling the press entirely from the White House.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

4 Comments
  • Look if Trump is trying to cherry pick the reporters that he will answer to based on how well they kiss his rear, then reporters with integrity can draw their own conclusions and report what Trump refuses to acknowledge. He can censor White House briefing but not the rest of the media! The American people can draw their own conclusions. We aren’t all sheep and we all don’t believe everything we are told. When trump goes on his tweeter hissy fits in response, reporters can legitimately state that trump refuses to answer them directly or have a rational exchange.

    Trump’s rants and vindictiveness only show him to be unstable and irrational. No one can be trusted with his temperament. He’s should implode under the weight of his own ego and grandiose view of himself!

    • The era of MSM manipulation of the news is over. America is tired of being told what to think by so called journalists with their own agenda. The liberal elite media who does not reflect average America needs to be driven out of the White House and other news agencies get a voice in asking questions that interest average Americans. I would like to turn on the news or read a paper that is not driven by political bias. Trump has been demonized by every source of media and it is the MSM that has divided this nation not Trump. Wait until he is in office and judge him on what he does as President, his policies and results of his actions. If you cannot do that then you should question your own ability to think clearly, rationally and intelligently. Running on emotions and fear is typical of todays Democrat. Certainly not the Democrats of days gone by. Left wing hysterical nutters running around spreading all kinds of hate. To what end. Democrats have run the inner cities for decades and have done nothing to improve the lives of those living there. Maybe those facing unemployment, crime and welfare have had enough and are looking with hope that maybe this time something will be done. I am in hope and with Gods good grace perhaps this time a government for the people and by the people will be the norm. Not just another lying politician. The polls are wrong as they were in the election. With the positive stock market and so many companies already bringing jobs back more and more people are turning to Trump in a positive way. MSM only focuses on the negative to hide this fact. In 2 years congress is up for re election and if Trump does half of what he promises he will win another landslide taking down the democrats who dismissed him at every opportunity. The saddest thing is the democrats and MSM do not want him to succeed and that tells you they care more for themselves than seeing America do better. Trump won a landslide with 306 electoral college votes, that is the voting system. Hillary thought she had all the electoral college votes sewed up and never went out campaigning, same as she did not campaign during the primaries as she had the super delegates all in her pocket. Her underestimating the mid states and ignoring their plight cost her the election. The Hillary popular votes came from California. The voting machines were not hacked and if the Russians let out emails written by Podesta and the rest of them that were not favorable, it had no effect on the election. the Trump people stayed with Trump and the Hillary supporters stayed with her. Accept the results or not, Trump will be President and if the Democrats keep up the nonsense they will lose more of the Senate and the House again by even more in 2 years.

      • MSM? No one tells me what to think. We aren’t all sheep like GOP voters. We can think for ourselves!

        Why should any news reporting and promoting a right-wing agenda be thought of as any less political in bias? Who are you to say what the average American or what they want? Just like television, if you don’t like what you see, change the channel but don’t deprive me of the right to see it!

        This isn’t Putin’s Russia where only things that flatter you are allowed to be aired! We are adults and fully capable of making our own assessments!

        Trump’s own big mouth demonizes him by what comes out of it. We aren’t in a coma. We here quite clearly what comes out of it! He can’t pretend it’s something else anymore than you can! P.T. Barnum won’t give us an even break so why should we?

        It’s right-wing nutters who are intolerant and spreading hate! Who are you trying to kid? Yourself? Trump has already told us what he plans to do. That’s why people are alarmed!
        You never gave Obama the same consideration or courtesy to prove himself bashing him even before he won his first election and working to undermine him and have him fail. That’s what you can expect now in return!

        I’m sick of Trump saying nothing is legitimate except for what he says. The media is crooked, the polls are unreliable and the election, including the electoral college, is rigged until it comes out in favor of him. I’m also sick of his endless whining and ranting. He isn’t our master, we don’t owe him anything!

      • I don’t buy Trump promises like we can expect great pay raises as a result of the policies he will implement. He can’t force employers to give us pay raises or dictate what they will give us. Corporation care only about profits and shareholder values not employees! They will put that before the welfare of employees! Does the Trump Corporation pay salaries above the market rate let alone give employees double-digit raises?

        He will bring more jobs? If people are underemployed it’s likely due to their lack of marketable skills and education. Adding factoring jobs is only adding more dead-end jobs. We need to invest in developing skills for people that have no college degree in trades that allow people to become plumbers, or electricians that are always in need.

        It’s the GOP that has everything to lose when Trump fails to deliver on all his promises. Keep setting the bar high for him and watch him fall to deliver. Trump is a flip flopper and bamboozler. I trust nothing he says.

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