On Monday, the White House held its first press briefing in 41 days, a stat passed around the press about how it was the longest span between briefings since cameras were brought in during the Clinton administration.
Despite this kvetching, CNN and MSNBC chose not to air a single second of the briefing live, which included an announcement of new Venezuela sanctions plus questions for National Security Adviser John Bolton, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Council of Economic Advisers head Larry Kudlow and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
The briefing began at 3:33 p.m. Eastern and the Fox News Channel immediately went to it during Shepherd Smith Reporting and Your World, but CNN Newsroom aired two tape-delayed soundbites on the Venezuela sanctions before moving on.
Host Brooke Baldwin plowed ahead after the first soundbite by bringing on Jeffrey Sachs to complain about the murderous Maduro regime losing worldwide legitimacy, plus senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski for more analysis.
“We're waiting for the Q and A portion with Sarah Sanders. That's happening as right-wing media blasts the president for his deal to temporarily end the shutdown and his longtime associate Roger Stone gets ready to be arraigned tomorrow. We'll take that live,” Baldwin insisted. Turns out, that was a lie.
To cap off the hour, Baldwin brought on Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr to discuss Venezuela before Baldwin herself touted the results from Sunday’s SAG Awards, and then a quick comment from corespondent Manu Raju about negotiations for a border wall.
On CNN’s The Lead, host Jake Tapper initially was more intrigued by the upcoming CNN town hall with media darling and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris. Minus teases, Tapper acknowledged the briefing at 4:16 p.m. Eastern in teeing up a piece from White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins that included two bites from Sanders.
Later in the show, there were two more clips from Sanders.
Whether it was CNN PR official Brian Stelter, one of his minions, or Jim Acosta, CNN’s hand-wringing about the lack of press briefings in recent weeks has turned out to be rather hollow.
Here was Acosta at 3:02 p.m. Eastern (click “expand”):
[I]t has been a long time since we've had a White House briefing over here in the briefing room. It's been 41 days since December 18th. That was the last time Sarah Sanders had a briefing. That is such a long period of time that we had a government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history in the middle of that time frame and so there's going to be a lot of questions asked. It’ll be interesting to see just how long Sarah Sanders devotes to this briefing. Some of the later briefings that we saw at the end of 2018 were running on average in the ballpark of 20 or 25 minutes and so, that — that may go pretty quickly when we see her come to the podium here in about half an hour from now but obviously the government shutdown is going to be top of mind in that briefing room.
Sadly, CNN viewers missed their Captain America doing his thing, asking Sanders these questions (click “expand”):
If I could jump in. Roger Stone last week, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn. Are you concerned — is the President concerned that as more and more of his former aides, associates are brought in to this investigation, are indicted, plead guilty, that this presidency is in danger?
A follow up on that, if I may. Can you assure the American people that during these conversations that Roger Stone had with Wikileaks and individuals who are tied to the dumping of that material that at no time the President had any interactions with Roger Stone, that nobody close to the President had interactions with Roger Stone who may have told the President what was going on in those conversations? All of this when it comes to Roger Stone is a complete surprise to the President. He didn't know any of this. Is that what you're saying?
Meanwhile, MSNBC Live featured hosts Katy Tur and Ali Velshi joking sarcastically about briefings with Velshi wondering to Tur if she remembers what those were. Velshi later insisted MSNBC was standing by for it, but like CNN, they didn’t air it aside from a brief soundbite of Bolton announcing the sanctions.
Instead, MSNBC ran segments on the government shutdown’s cost to the economy, government workers affected by the shutdown, Venezuela, and a possible independent presidential bid by Howard Schultz.
Velshi gave way at 4:00 p.m. Eastern to the Trump Derangement Syndrome news hour, which is better known as the Nicolle Wallace-hosted Deadline: White House. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a soundbite from Sanders on this insufferable show.
So to be clear, these two liberal cable outlets have long suggested that the President was eroding American press freedoms. But when it came to the news media allowing viewers to decide things for themselves, the former thinks they should be in charge of what the latter sees.