In my April 8 post on this topic, I expressed some ambivalence about the idea that the press should no longer cover the President’s daily briefings live at all. I certainly didn’t feel they needed to show the two-plus hour nightly events in their soul-sapping entirety, but I also wondered whether disbanding live coverage completely might be a bad precedent. I felt that the press should try to find a compromise by airing a portion and then cutting away, rather than dropping long-held norms just because he was slashing and burning them. On Friday, I heard Eli Stokols, a White House reporter for the Los Angeles Times, say that covering this President raises profound problems for the press and is in fact, the central issue for them at this point.
There is no doubt that in the midst of this fearsome pandemic, the calm factual voice of a trustworthy leader is sorely needed. But what we are getting from this President are not the Fireside Chats that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to calm the nation. This President’s litany of falsehoods, which began on Day One when his hapless then-Communications Director lied about the size of the crowds, has ruled him out as that persona.