The day before Hillary Clinton accepted her party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July 2016, Republican candidate Donald Trump held a news conference.
He began by excoriating Clinton for having gone 235 days without holding a news conference and then spent an extended period of time fielding nearly 100 questions from members of the media. This was the news conference at which he famously invited Russia to release emails stolen from Clinton’s private email server, which the Russians didn’t do (although the emails they had stolen from the Democratic National Committee had just been released).
Since that day, July 27, 2016, Trump has held precisely two additional solo news conferences, one in January 2017 during the transition and one in February 2017, less than a month into his presidency.
Trump mocked Clinton for going 235 days without giving a news conference. As of Friday, it will have been 365 days — a year — since he has given one as president, as noted by the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs. We made this real-time tracker of how long it had been since a news conference shortly afterward.
For those keeping track at home, then, the total for Trump is as follows.
- News conferences as a general-election candidate: 1
- News conferences as president-elect: 1
- News conferences as president: 1
With the number of new revelations about and disputes involving this presidency, reporters could probably fill three news conferences a week with questions. Instead, we’ve had three since Trump was nominated by the Republican Party.
Formal news conferences are not the only opportunities reporters have to ask Trump questions, of course. He will occasionally entertain questions as he makes his way to or from Marine One. He also, like most recent presidents, will often take questions at joint news conferences when foreign dignitaries come to the White House. These are necessarily shorter, given that both leaders are asked to respond.
Presidents also usually hold formal solo news conferences — occasionally even in prime time. Data from the American Presidency Project indicates that no president on record has held fewer solo news conferences in his first year than Trump. Only twice has a president held no news conference in a single year: Ronald Reagan, in the middle of his two terms.
Trump’s relationship with the news media is also more hostile than that of any other recent president, and that may help explain his reluctance to engage with them directly. During the primary — when he was soaring above his Republican opponents in the polls — he talked to reporters regularly and enthusiastically. Coincidentally or not, he withdrew from doing so only when his poll numbers sagged and he trailed Clinton in the general-election campaign and then into his presidency, when his approval ratings have been historically low.
The last time Trump took questions from the media during a news conference was last month when he hosted the prime minister of Norway. Trump spent that time rebuffing tough questions about the Russia investigation.
That was probably not an incentive for him to schedule a longer news conference anytime soon, regardless of how valuable it would be for the public to hear his responses.