Donald Trump kicked off his week shrouded in controversy, from his unequivocal endorsement of Roy Moore, to his cheerleading for a near-universally loathed tax bill, to reversing decades of U.S. policy on Israel, to opening up protected monuments to oil and gas drilling.
But reporters arriving at Air Force One in Utah on Monday quickly learned that White House officials were not going to allow on-the-record questions on any of it.
Members of the press, expecting a “gaggle” aboard Air Force One, were rebuffed by White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, who refused to answer any questions on the record.
A transcript obtained by CNN’s Brian Stelter shows Gidley obstinately blockading irate reporters:
REPORTER: We have to ask the questions—
GIDLEY: I understand that, you have a job to do and so do I.
REPORTER: You’re not doing your job. Your job is literally to take questions from us. That’s the whole point of this … you can release paper statements if you want.
GIDLEY: Please tell me more about my job if I get to tell you more about yours.
In the end, reporters were forced to leave empty-handed.
Gidley is a spokesman for the White House, and by extension, for Trump’s actions in office. It is not acceptable for him to refuse to comment or justify major announcements of foreign and domestic policy.
But this sort of behavior reflects the general animosity this administration has shown toward the free press, with Trump referring to any coverage that portrays him negatively as “fake news” and his proclamation, parroted by many of his supporters, that journalists are the “enemy of the people.”
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders regularly shows disdain toward White House reporters and the free press in general. Clearly, her deputies feel it is appropriate to do the same.
This administration’s lack of transparency is part and parcel of a coordinated assault on the Fourth Estate. It is time to demand higher standards of the people tasked with governing us.