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Press Endures Trump White House Learning Curve

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White House press secretary, Sean Spicer (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP) 

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Tuesday, 28 Feb 2017 10:45 AM Current | Bio | Archive

I cannot say that I know White House press secretary Sean Spicer very well, personally.

And while I’ve been in the same room with him several times, discussed substantive issues in his RNC office during the 2016 presidential primary, and even traded greetings, I’m not sure we would share a ginger beer as easily as with others. But I will say that I feel he’s been unfairly targeted for the most part in recent weeks and months, even notwithstanding the "Saturday Night Live" (SNL) skits (which are funny, by the way, everyone should just know that).

As someone who has taken his fair share of attacks and spent more intense moments in a media spotlight than I care to remember, I feel for Spicer. Everyone knows he has a tough job. More significantly —  he works for a tough boss.

But these are also tough times for our country. After eight years of neglect — particularly from the standpoint of a majority of the voters — change is being demanded.

It is Sean’s job to vigorously and even objectionably defend this president and his administration’s moves.

But one move uncovered last week by the media has me dumbfounded.

Itdeals with Spicer’s actions surrounding intelligence and the steps he took to submarine the stories. Apparently, the White House didn’t like a breaking mid-month report mid-alleging inappropriate contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Like any good press flak, Spicer moved to get in front of the story and tried to squelch it.

But how he went about it, and the steps he took seem very amateurish. 

As I understand it, the press secretary called members of Congress and high-ranking administration officials, passing out cell phone numbers and office lines for key reporters breaking the Russian story.

It sounds like he then demanded they call the reporter immediately — and unsolicited — to say the story was false.

But the problem was there was no context for the contact. In other words, House leaders and individuals like CIA director Pompeo were not contacted for a comment.

They just cold-called the reporters.

Additionally, even after the awkwardness of those first few moments, news reports said those intelligence officials couldn’t say anything more. How odd. 

If a member of Congress phoned me without my initially contacting him or her, I would politely take the call, but with a cocked eyebrow as to the nature of it.

Further, if all he said was, "Hey Armstrong, your story is false . . . never mind how I learned you were even writing a story or what all you do know — it’s false. No, I can’t say any more than that.  . . . ” Huh?!

To add even more weirdness to this vignette, I also understand that Spicer somehow was able to listen in on the calls? I hope I’m wrong on that one, because if true, that’s even more perplexing.

In the rhythm and flow between journalists and press agents, there is a certain spoken, or unspoken code. If you want to spike a story, take the time to get the facts straight; spread those facts across multiple channels to ensure accuracy and reliability; then make sure the reporters interested in that storyline intersect at the right time.

You can’t microwave this stuff. It takes time. Foisting senior members of Congress and intelligence offices onto newsrooms without provocation is peculiar at best, and it is public relations malpractice — at its worst.

Armstrong Williams is the author of "Reawakening Virtues." He is a political commentator who writes a conservative newspaper column, hosts a nationally syndicated TV program called "The Right Side," and hosts a daily radio show on Sirius/XM Power 128 (6-7 p.m. and 5-6 a.m.) Monday through Friday. He also is owner of Howard Stirk Holdings Broadcast TV stations. Read more reports from Armstrong Williams — Click Here Now.
 

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Between journalists and press agents, there is a certain code. Take time to get facts straight; spread those facts across multiple channels ensuring accuracy; then make sure the reporters interested in that storyline intersect at the right time. You can’t microwave this stuff.
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Tuesday, 28 Feb 2017 10:45 AM
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