White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has only given six press conferences in the last twenty days, down sharply from his usual rate.
Carney’s partial retreat from the podium comes as the White House is facing increased pressure from the media, following the May 10 revelation of the IRS targeting scandal, and the May 13th revelation of the Justice Department’s surveillance of the Associated Press.
The president’s need for damage control was also boosted by the news of formerly secret emails that detailed the White House’s effort to downplay the political damage from the September 11, 2012 jihadi attack in Benghazi, and the news that the Justice Department was monitoring Fox News reporter James Rosen on direct orders from Attorney General Eric Holder.
Carney has held six press conferences since the scandals began, on May 29, May 22, May 21, May 15, May 14, and May 10.
He has also held two so-called brief “gaggles” during presidential trips to New Jersey and New York. The gaggles tend to be short and focused on the trips.
His deputy, Josh Earnest, also did one gaggle Thursday, on the way home from a fundraising trip to Chicago, in which he told reporters that the president is not considering whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS’ targeting of citizens’ groups.
In the last twenty days of February, by comparison, Carney held eight press conferences, including four in one week. Carney also did two gaggles, and Earnest held two gaggles.
The gaggles are much shorter than press conferences.
For example, the transcript of the 16-minute long May 28 gaggle ran to 1,872 words. The 16-minute May 13 gaggle was only 1,907 words.
In contrast, the May 22 press conference lasted 57 minutes and the transcript is 9,504 words long. The May 10 press conference lasted one hour, and the transcript is 10,562 words long.
The May 10 event began three hours later than initially scheduled.
Since May 10, President Barack Obama has taken four trips out of D.C. and has held short press conferences with the leaders of the United Kingdom and Turkey.