There were smiles, handshakes, hugs and photos as Sarah Sanders, the outgoing White House press secretary, hung out on Monday night with colleagues and journalists at a happy hour in a D.C. steakhouse. Amid all the bonhomie, the Erik Wemple Blog attempted to sneak in some business questions for the woman who pretty much ended the tradition of daily White House press briefings.
Here’s the back-and-forth:
ERIK WEMPLE BLOG: Sarah, hi — Erik Wemple [Blog] with The Post. How’s it going?
SARAH SANDERS: Good, are you recording?
ERIK WEMPLE BLOG: Yes.
ERIK WEMPLE BLOG: Are you helping out with choosing your successor?
SANDERS: Hey, Erik, I’m just here to visit. I’m not going to do [inaudible].
ERIK WEMPLE BLOG: Do you feel you were honest with the media?
SANDERS: Hey, Erik, I just don’t think this is the appropriate venue, but I appreciate you being here tonight.
With that, Sanders shifted to other folks huddled around her as she sipped a clear beverage from a wineglass. The event was well attended with journalists from Fox News, The Post, Reuters, Newsmax, Politico and others. The announcement that reporters would be meeting up for farewell drinks with Sanders touched off a storm of protest and snark on social media last week, premised on the idea that it was unseemly for journalists to meet socially with an official who had executed and enabled President Trump’s authoritarian attacks on the media. Plus, she lied or dissembled frequently from the lectern.
There was even some noise about happy-hour shaming the attendees:
The Erik Wemple Blog encountered no such camera crew outside of the event.
Anita Kumar, a Politico White House correspondent who helped put together the farewell drinks, told the Erik Wemple Blog, “I’m actually really happy with the turnout — it’s huge." She added: “And it taught me two things: One, we did the right thing, the thing that we always knew was right that I kind of second-guessed for a minute with all the criticism, which is, we’re meeting with the people that we cover. And it’s important — you have to talk to the people you cover. That’s it.”
As this blog wrote last week, journalists joining sources for drinks is a foundational element of beat reporting. Better to judge their published record than their choice of happy-hour attendees. In the meantime, the Erik Wemple Blog has asked Sanders if she can come up with a more “appropriate venue” for our questions.