Just last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer verily pounded the podium in the briefing room, imploring reporters to examine matters of “substance” above all else. “You seem to have an obsession with the process and not the substance,” Spicer told NBC News’s Peter Alexander regarding intelligence leaks.
Mr. Substance himself over the weekend said this about Tara Palmeri, a Politico reporter who ferreted out some information that Spicer found disagreeable:
“She is an idiot with no real sources,” asserted Spicer.
That comment came in an email between Spicer and Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle for a story titled, “Reince Priebus Defends Paul Ryan Amid Failure.” Like the rest of the Washington press corps, Boyle was seeking to characterize the fallout from the Friday failure of the Trump-backed American Health Care Act, which Republican leaders in the House pulled from consideration when they realized that a frenzy of arm-twisting wouldn’t secure sufficient support.
Citing three sources, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times report that “blame has fallen on Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, who coordinated initial legislative strategy on the health care bill with [House Speaker Paul] … Ryan, his close friend and a fellow Wisconsinite.”
Palmeri, a White House correspondent for Politico, tweeted yesterday afternoon:
— Tara Palmeri (@tarapalmeri) March 25, 2017
Breitbart asked about that bit of reporting, and Spicer responded with his elegant take on Palmeri’s character. As Boyle himself pointed out, Palmeri has broken stories on this White House, including one on how White House staffers failed background checks by the FBI and had to be escorted from the premises. Asked about Spicer’s ad feminam blast, Politico spokesman Brad Dayspring issued this comment: “Tara is an excellent reporter whose tenacity made her a stand out in Europe. After her incredibly successful Brexit reporting, Tara returned to Washington where she has delivered top-notch reporting on the White House beat, most recently breaking the story that Dina Powell would be President Trump’s Deputy National Security Adviser.”
Tracking Spicer’s broadsides against Politico may require deployment of an Erik Wemple Contractor Blog. As we reported earlier this year, Spicer & Co., with the able assistance of the Washington Examiner, perpetrated a gutter-level slime job against Politico reporter Alex Isenstadt, who at the time was reporting a critical story about the press secretary’s management approach. Prior to assuming his current post, Spicer openly hammered the decade-old political website.
As for the “substance” of the matter at hand, there is none. This is just another example of the stoop-to-any-levelism of the current White House press operation. Just wait: It’s only a matter of time before Palmeri comes up with a story that lends credence — at least in the eyes of Spicer and his crew — to some White House talking point. What will they say about her sources then?
As Spicer faces the media this coming week, there’ll be plenty of matters to address, including blame for the health-care disaster, prospects for tax reform, the president’s tweeting, “Justice with Judge Jeanine” and much other stuff. Here’s hoping that the press secretary fields a question about his continuing commitment to substance. According to a Politico source, editor Carrie Budoff Brown sent an email to Spicer raising her concerns over the treatment.