BLACKWELL: The Media Is Using The Coronavirus Briefings To Score Political Points

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Ken Blackwell Former Ohio Secretary of State
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Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing that the daily coronavirus press briefings should be scaled back because they are primarily used by the media to attack the president. You can find a counterpoint here, where Charles Kolb, deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy under George H.W. Bush, argues that the coronavirus press briefings bring vital information to Americans and should be continued as usual.

Journalists are supposed to relay information to the public, but the petty partisanship of many mainstream media reporters seems to directly contradict that goal.

The White House coronavirus task force briefings serve the dual purpose of informing the American people about our progress against the coronavirus pandemic and boosting the nation’s morale as we wage war against the invisible enemy. For weeks, President Trump stood beside the federal government’s top public health experts every single day to deliver exhaustive reports on the federal government’s actions and answer wide-ranging questions from members of the media. Despite the enormous responsibility of running the most powerful country on Earth while simultaneously managing the government’s response to a once-in-a-century pandemic, the president felt it was worth taking 90 minutes or more out of his busy schedule to provide updates, encouragement and answers.

The administration was under no obligation to conduct the briefings, which have unfailingly featured some of the biggest news developments of the day. Based on the hostility President Trump has faced from the mainstream media throughout his presidency, it was downright generous of him to offer the press such extensive and frank interactions.

Instead of accepting the gravity of our country’s current predicament and using that opportunity to seek clarification and answers to the questions that are on the minds of ordinary Americans, many so-called “journalists” engaged in the same sort of partisan sniping as always, peppering the Commander-in-Chief with “gotcha” questions intended to lend credence to baseless criticisms and undermine his efforts to buoy the nation’s spirits.

All things considered, the president handled the biased questions with remarkable patience and poise, clearing up media misinformation whenever possible and responding with righteous indignation when reporters veered too far off the rails. The president notably defended the honor of White House coronavirus task force members and medical professionals and first responders on the front lines of this war on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, the White House press corps kept pushing the envelope. The same people who had complained for years about the lack of formal press briefings given by the most transparent president in American history quickly revealed the partisan motivations behind those demands, leaping at the opportunity to use the coronavirus press briefings as a platform to grandstand before a national audience and lay false claims at the president’s feet.

The fact is, President Trump has directed a comprehensive, all-of-government response to the coronavirus pandemic, implementing life-saving travel restrictions, establishing vital partnerships with the private sector and collaborating closely with state and local officials to ensure that every part of the country has access to essential public health resources such as respirators, ventilators, gloves, gowns and masks.

You wouldn’t know all that from the biased coverage of most mainstream media outlets, whose reporters were determined to waste the American people’s time by turning White House coronavirus task force briefings into a political circus with their politically-motivated “gotcha” questions.

President Trump, however, is always one step ahead of his opponents. Now that the curve has flattened throughout much of the country, he’s going directly to the people with events that profile the courageous essential workers and private sector partners producing the life-saving medical equipment for our doctors and nurses on the front lines, such as his recent visit to a Honeywell facility in Phoenix. He’s still keeping the American people informed with regular updates on the status of both our public health efforts and the administration’s ongoing work to restore the record-setting economy we were enjoying before this invisible enemy arrived on our shores — but he’s doing it on his terms, based on what’s best for the country. President Trump should scale back the daily briefings and replace them with his own personalized method to keep in touch with the American people and avoid counterproductive conflicts with the media.

White House correspondents are entrusted with a major responsibility — relaying information from the President of the United States to the American people. Instead, they’ve made themselves obstacles to that outcome by letting partisan bias supercede honest reporting.

Ken Blackwell served as the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, the Ohio State Treasurer, and Ohio Secretary of State. He currently serves on the board of directors for Club for Growth and National Taxpayers Union.