What arises from all of this business?
A nightly iteration of pro-Trump talking points. “Well, it’s now officially the Schumer-Schiff sham show,” said Hannity on his Tuesday night program, referring to the impeachment trial in the Senate. He went on to call House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff a “congenital liar.” Of Schiff and his fellow managers, Hannity said, “They have literally been spewing BS for hours and hours.”
More: “A lot of this, though, to be very, very blunt, is pointless, monotonous, redundant. And there is really absolutely nothing new in terms of what we know in terms of Ukraine.”
Though White House aides dubbed Hannity the “shadow chief of staff,” perhaps “shadow press secretary” is more appropriate for his role in White House propaganda. It’s not a groundbreaking coinage, by any means. On his program, after all, Hannity reaches millions of people, many of them the very same people that the White House wishes to reach. He has years of practice in expressing ridiculous arguments on behalf of Republican politicians. And he doesn’t have to deal with questions from the media.
Each night, Hannity spends much if not all of his program doing what a press secretary would usually do in White House press briefings. “They allow you to drive the agenda and in a kind of soft way they force people to focus on what the president wants the news to be,” says Joe Lockhart, who served as press secretary under President Bill Clinton.
A more precise description of “Hannity” you will never encounter. What a perfect replacement for the press briefings that the White House ditched as of March 11, 2019, under then-press secretary Sarah Sanders. Having succeeded Sanders last summer, Stephanie Grisham hasn’t held a single one.
With this consideration in mind, we asked Grisham: Do “Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity and the ‘Fox & Friends’ crew capably carry forward the White House position on things?” She replied:
I agree with past press secretaries that briefings were probably important in helping to get the message out - but that was also before social media for many of them. In this Administration the media gets to see and hear from the President constantly through press availabilities, and every day via Twitter. More importantly, the American people hear directly from their President every day. Hearing directly from him and knowing exactly what is on his mind is much more important than from me at the podium. And if not the President, I believe subject matter experts such as agency heads and cabinet secretaries provide much more substantive information. Also just to correct you - people from this Administration are on many different outlets all the time, not just FOX.I’d also note that we held a press conference today, at the World Economic Forum, and … only 2 or 3 of the questions were on the topic of the economy. In addition, CNN and MSNBC - who are generally the loudest in their complaints about basically everything to do with access - didn’t even carry it.
With such deflection skills, surely Grisham could withstand a barrage or two at the lectern of the James S. Brady briefing room.
As to the gripe about CNN and MSNBC, have a look at the live coverage they passed up: Trump called Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) a “sleazebag,” repeated his usual attacks on the media and boasted about “material” that the impeachment inquiry doesn’t have, among other comments. “Fox & Friends” aired the entire presser, then followed up with a typically uncritical roundup. Co-host Steve Doocy appeared to enjoy recapping the “sleazebag” remark.
Though we know full well what Grisham isn’t doing these days (press briefings), there’s been less clarity about what she is doing. This series, therefore, has taken pains to ask her about her quotidian duties. On Wednesday morning, Grisham sent her daily rundown to the Erik Wemple Blog before we had a chance to request it:
Because I know you’re going to ask:Monitored impeachment trial overnightMet w POTUS prior to interviewsStaffed his interviewsWorked w advance team to set up last-minute press conference Met w POTUS and staff Two hour motorcade back to Zürich because of a bad weather call Answering hundreds of emails and texts while in said motorcade Flying home to DC At this moment I’ve had 2 cups of espresso and nothing to eat Legit wondering if this is a good use of my time - or yours for that matter.
Bolding added to explain this pushback: Yes, this is a worthy use of the Erik Wemple Blog’s time. And we promise to quit asking once Grisham restarts the briefings. That would be one way to get the attention of MSNBC and CNN.
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