Among all the self-important political rituals in Washington, the hallowed White House press briefing bats perhaps the highest absurdity-per-minute average.
Sean Spicer blazed to a hot start in his opening podium appearance in January, blowing a gasket after reporters accurately reported the crowd size of Donald Trump’s inauguration. His midseason replacement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has since picked up where he left off with a polished, five-tool game of lies, half-truths, aversions, innuendo, and passive-aggressive lectures. It seems the only reason this wretched formality continue is to grant the White House frequent opportunities to officially portray the media as a hate object.
This week reached new heights, much as we’ve been made numb to it all. On Wednesday, a day after ESPN host Jemele Hill was reprimanded by the network for accurately tweeting that Donald Trump is a white supremacist, Sanders said from the White House podium that the remarks were a “fireable offense.” I repeat: A flack earning $165,000 a year in her public sector job suggested a media company sack a journalist.
Trump, in what “savvy” reporters described as an attempt to distract his base from immigration negotiations with Democrats, extended the spat during his early morning Twitter tantrum on Friday.
Sanders, of course, was asked about it in Friday’s briefing. And she appeared to answer with prepared remarks:
ESPN has been hypocritical. They should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard. ESPN suspended a longtime anchor, Linda Cohn, not too long ago for expressing a political viewpoint. The network’s public editor has said there’s a perception ESPN has become political, and that has harmed the network. This is clearly a political statement. They should be consistent with whatever guidelines they have set themselves on that front.
Not only did the White House double down on its statement that Hill should be punished more harshly than her very public reprimand, but the president’s staff spent time and energy devising language to say it. You won’t be surprised that Sanders also misrepresented the situation with Cohn, who was criticizing the network itself for its political slant.
These are the communicators who supposedly convey the official positions of the President of the United States. Chew on that as you enjoy your weekend.