There is spin and then there is Sean Spicer, who is denying the objective reality of his media availability.
Witness this exchange Wednesday between the White House press secretary and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham:
INGRAHAM: How do you answer the press vipers? That’s my word, not yours. They’re very upset. They’re very, very upset. They want to spend more time — quality time — with you, Sean. They don’t want just, like, a brief drive-by with you, Sean. They want quality time to really have the relationship build on itself. So, what’s going on with the fewer briefings?
SPICER: Well, first of all, it’s not fewer briefings. And, again, this is part of the problem, I think, for people who don’t take the time to listen to your show or others that inform them entirely, they get this false impression.
To say there are “not fewer briefings” is false, plain and simple. As I noted Monday, the number of briefings and gaggles by Spicer and his deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has been declining since March. Here's an updated chart:
The sheer number of briefings does not tell the whole story. The Q&A sessions also are getting much shorter. The average duration was about 48 minutes in March and has been about 28 minutes in June.
That means the drop in total briefing time — “quality time,” as Ingraham sarcastically described it — has been even sharper.
In case you're wondering, President Trump's spokesmen also have held far fewer briefings than Barack Obama's had at the same stage of the last presidency.
By any measure, there are fewer briefings these days. That's a fact. Spicer's claim that there are “not fewer briefings” is an alternative fact.
That Spicer made the claim in an interview with Ingraham is just too perfect. Ingraham was a candidate for press secretary last fall, and the White House recently approached her about replacing Spicer. She has publicly played down her interest in the job, but it is easy to see why Trump might prefer Ingraham over Spicer at this point.
Just look at the way she posed the question about briefings. She insulted reporters (“vipers”) and delivered a strong dose of snark but acknowledged the decline in Q&A sessions.
Any press secretary who represents Trump is going to bring some attitude to the role. It's a prerequisite, actually. To maintain credibility, however, the press secretary must maintain a grip on reality. A person in Spicer's position can argue that a reduction in briefing time is warranted for any number of reasons but cannot pretend that the reduction is just a “false impression.”
Spicer still has not learned to draw the line at provably untrue statements, which is one reason that he could soon be moved behind the scenes.