Opinion

Political Reporters Fail Miserably at White House Coronavirus Briefings

|
Posted: Mar 31, 2020 12:15 PM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Political Reporters Fail Miserably at White House Coronavirus Briefings

Source: Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

Editor's Note: Did you know there is a special column from Larry on Thursdays? A third per week! Sign up here to become a Townhall VIP member to get it.

"Do you think your question was helpful in halting the spread of the coronavirus?" This should be the standard every question shouted at President Donald Trump at his daily Coronavirus Task Force press briefings should be measured against.

Let's be clear. This is not my standard. This is the standard presented by the White House reporters themselves.

It was March 19, just twelve days ago. After a 48-hour cycle of relentlessly ignorant analysis that President Trump's use of the phrase "Chinese Virus" to describe the COVID-19 virus that clearly developed, spread and promulgated from the Wuhan province in China was in some way racist and put Asian-Americans in danger of violent reprisals, OAN reporter Chanel Rion asked the president "Do you consider the use of the term 'Chinese food' racist?"

She went on to ask about the president's reaction to the very reporters in the briefing room who either denied the virus's point of origin or charged "racism" for those of us who accurately point out the virus's point of origin. Specifically, Rion asked the president to respond to the fact that such false charges of racism were literally a repetition of propaganda distributed by the communist regime in Beijing.

After the briefing, Rion returned to OAN's designated cubicle in the White House and found a "Mean Girls" style note left on her desk.

"Do you think your question was helpful in halting the spread of the coronavirus?" read the note.

Her angry, petty colleagues couldn't refute the facts backing up her question. They were irrefutable. They couldn't deny their own behavior because we've all seen their behavior every day. So, instead, they attempted to question the importance or relevance of her question to the crisis at hand.

These reporters behave as though the only questions worth asking at the daily briefings are questions directly related to halting the spread of the virus.

OK then. Let's hold up their behavior to their sanctimonious standard.

Yesterday, CNN's Jim Acosta asked the president: "What do you say to Americans who are upset with you over the way you downplayed this crisis?"

He then quoted back several statements made by the president over the past several weeks regarding the coronavirus like "It's going to disappear. One day, it's like a miracle; it will disappear." Then, Acosta added, "What do you say to Americans who believe that you got this wrong?"

Hey, Jim, "Do you think your question was helpful in halting the spread of the coronavirus?"

At the same briefing, PBS' Yamiche Alcindor asked, "Mr. President, you said several times that the United States has ramped up testing, but the United States is still not testing per capita as many residents--as many people as other countries like South Korea. Why is that and when do you think that that number will be on par with other countries?"

Hey, Yamiche, "Do you think your question was helpful in halting the spread of the coronavirus?" 

On March 20, a still-unidentified reporter asked the president, "The key to getting this economy open as soon as possible is to test everyone who needs testing so when can quarantine all infected individuals and allow everyone else to go back to work immediately. Would you subscribe to that strategy? If not, how many deaths are acceptable?"

Hey, Guy-whose-name-we-still-don't-know-for-some-reason, "Do you think your question was helpful in halting the spread of the coronavirus?"

You get the picture, right? When they don't like the political nature of a question because it cuts away from their political ideology or agenda, they sanctimoniously declare that questions not directly related to stopping the spread of the virus are in bad taste and unhelpful. But, look at the questions they shout at the president when trying to score political points with their pals in Blue Check Twitterland and executive suites back at their Manhattan-based studios.

I have no concern for the president and his ability to handle these questions. In fact, as he parries with White House reporters at these briefings, his popularity increases. The American people see exactly what's happening here. And they like it when the president pushes back, even if his push back seems abrasive.

My concern is with the actual flow of important and relevant information that the American people need and deserve to hear. As long as the White House press briefings are populated with nothing but political reporters, we are condemned to cope with these divisive exchanges.

Because these reporters are well-schooled in politics and not epidemiology, they will continue to ask Dr. Anthony Fauci questions designed to draw a difference and even animosity between him and the president. Fauci gets this. That's why he has begged reporters to stop asking questions that are specifically designed to drive a wedge between his office and the Oval Office.

But, they can't help themselves. This is all they know.

The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway suggested this week if perhaps networks should send journalists with skillsets that better accommodate this news cycle. "Perhaps it's time to give political reporters a rest from the White House briefings and replace them with public health, mental health, business, education, and other beat reporters."

Perhaps. 

Or, perhaps, the reporters currently covering these briefings could judge themselves and their questions by the same standard they used as a cudgel against one of the few voices in the briefing room that doesn't march in lockstep with the ideological pack.

Before they ask a question of the president, maybe they should ask themselves, "Do you think your question was helpful in halting the spread of the coronavirus?"

More often then not, sadly, the answer is probably "no."

Larry O'Connor hosts two separate radio programs on WMAL in Washington DC and on KABC in Los Angeles. He has a daily, 30-minute podcast covering U.S. Politics and featuring interviews with newsmakers and pundits on the biggest stories of the day. Subscribe here.