Columns

Earnest: 'Some Accountability' in Trump Answering 'Shouted Questions' More Than Obama

White House press secretary Josh Earnest listens as President Obama speaks at his final daily press briefing Jan. 17, 2017, at the White House. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON – Former White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Trump answers “shouted questions” from the press at a higher rate than former President Obama did.

During the transition, Earnest recalled that some had questioned whether there would be daily briefings and how frequently Trump would make himself available for questions from the press.

“So from that perspective, things have actually turned out quite a bit better, I think, than many people expected, that the daily briefing, for example, is much shorter and is not quite as a source of reliable information but it’s still happening, and there’s still senior members of President Trump’s team who stand before that podium most days and are held accountable and face tough questions and they do it on live television – and that’s a valuable thing,” Earnest said during a discussion at Politics and Prose with Pat Cunnane about his new book, West Winging It: An Un-Presidential Memoir.

Cunnane served as Obama’s senior writer and deputy director of messaging. Earnest noted that while Trump frequently appears “in front” of the media, he has not done a “full-blown” news conference in more than a year, which he called “problematic.”

“But he does frequently answer shouted questions, not always, but he frequently does, certainly at a rate that is higher than what President Obama did, so there is at least some accountability that’s in there and I think, most optimistically, newspaper circulation is through the roof,” said Earnest, an MSNBC contributor.

Earnest added that the increased number of online news subscriptions shows that the public is “listening” to the news “in ways they haven’t before.”

“People who are signing up for subscriptions online for the New York Times and the Washington Post and other outlets that are covering the White House are at record highs. Ratings for cable television news are at all-time highs,” he said.

Cunnane said the White House press corps has the most difficult job they’ve had in “many, many years.”

“I do think they are doing a good job,” he said.

Cunnane was asked to share the message he hopes readers take away from his book, which details his experiences working in the White House.

“What I’ve realized is in an age of Fire and Fury and now the James Comey book and plenty of the other Trump-related books that will surely be coming out, I wanted this to sort of be an antidote to that, a reminder that working at the White House can be fun without being wildly dysfunctional,” he said. “So, I hope it’s a reminder that it can be fun to get into politics as a kid and it’s not some horrible swamp creature thing. So that’s what I hope they take away.”