Donald Trump is hiding from the press

Politics & Communication

Being the White House press secretary is not a dream job these days. On the one hand, this is due to the erratically ruling President Donald Trump, who is not guided by any communication strategy. He let his first spokesman, Sean Spicer, lie in the first briefing after the inauguration in January 2017. About the size of the audience, which is said to have surpassed that of the predecessor Barack Obama in 2009. TV images and generally accessible data, for example on the use of local public transport, proved the opposite.

Second, this is due to journalists, whose questions are also not always conducive to the dignity of the White House. There was, for example, the press conference chaired by Spicer's successor Sarah Huckabee Sanders in January 2018 with Trump's personal physician Ronny Jackson (who, according to media reports, has since given up his role as personal physician). He attested the president robust health, free of "cognitive or mental problems".

Strict regime for press work

A journalist asked whether the most powerful man in the world will only beaBall of ice cream for dessert, and a colleague wanted to know in all seriousness why Trump, whose love of Diet Coke and fast food is legendary, could be fitter than Obama. "They call it genes," replied the doctor with a shrug.

When Jackson cleared the lectern after an hour, Spokeswoman Sanders asked the group with noticeable sarcasm, "Was that informative? I think we've discussed every lead that might have to do with the President's health."

AsWhite House Press SecretarySanders likes to take advantage of the power of her office. In November she opened a press briefing saying she was grateful for the work "with you all here in this room". Then she asked the correspondents to introduce questions with confessions for which they were grateful. Those who did not obey this rule were still allowed to ask their question, but were admonished by the 35-year-old daughter of a Republican ex-governor from Arkansas.

Most of the journalists followed Sanders' guidelines. A colleague said she was grateful for the first amendment to the constitution, which stipulates freedom of religion, the press and freedom of expression - and waived the accompanying note that this wasFirst Amendmentincludes the right to refuse to answer such arbitrary questions.

Chilled correspondents

The press department in the White House has a strict regime. This became clear during the inaugural visit of Chancellor Angela Merkel in March 2017, when the press spokesman was still called Spicer. Journalists from New York Times "and CNN, while waiting in the briefing room, agreed to have a question about a conspiracy theory that Spicer had spread the day before. According to him, Obama had the Trump team in the election campaign with the help of the British secret service. That very morning was denied by London as "ridiculous".

An employee of the press office picked up the appointment. Spicer then chose colleagues from MSNBC andBloombergas questioners who wanted to question Trump on more innocuous topics like health care reform and Republicans. Since the questions from us foreign journalists, unlike those from the Americans, did not have to be approved by Spicer beforehand, the chilled-out correspondents of CNN and the "New York Times" asked us to address the London reaction to the alleged wiretapping in their place.

I did - to Trump's noticeable displeasure. After all, the President used his answer to my question for the following remark with a sidelong glance at Merkel, who was standing next to him and presumably overheard by the NSA until 2013: "As for wiretapping: I think we have something in common with the previous government. "

White lies "for the benefit of the president"

The sober Spicer took off his hat in July 2017 because Anthony Scaramucci, who tended to self-portray, was supposed to be put in front of him as communications director. Scaramucci himself was fired after just ten days after declaring in an absurd telephone conversation with a journalist that the then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was trying to "suck his own cock". Priebus also stepped back. It is speculated that his successor, John F. Kelly, will either resign out of frustration or be sent into the desert by the president.

Spicer held the two offices ofPress Secretaryand desCommunications Director(see info box) in personal union until Scaramucci took over the role of director. He was replaced by Trump's campaign assistant Hope Hicks, who mainly worked in the background. In late February, Hicks also resigned after admitting to a congressional committee that she had "white lies" for the benefit of the president.

White House spokesman

Next to thePress Secretaryis thereCommunications Directorin the white house. Both are formally subordinate to the Chief of Staff, but report directly to the President. While the Press Secretary deals primarily with the press corps, he is theCommunications Directorresponsible for conveying the political agenda of the White House as a whole.

White House employees had previously repeatedly referred to the lack of experience of the former confidants of Trump's daughter Ivanka. In March 2017, for example, Hicks drew the President's attention to an article by Evan Osnos, David Remnick and Joshua Yaffa in the magazine "New Yorker" about "Trump, Putin and the New Cold War".

But Hicks had missed the actual news, hidden in a set of brackets at the very end of the extensive story, that Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner had met with the Russian ambassador Sergej Kisljak in the Trump Tower during the transition period. It was not until then, who has since been slaughtered, chief strategist Steve Bannon, to point out this explosive detail to the president. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, a war-tempered ex-general, didn't really take Hicks seriously about such mishaps.

Donald Trump considers women to be loyal and harmless

On the other hand, there was never any trace of an upset Trump against Hicks. He saw her as his daughter, writes Michael Wolff in his investigative book "Fire and Fury", while Trump's actual daughter Ivanka appeared more as the actual first lady. Especially in the first year of the presidency, when Melania Trump was still living in New York City with the youngest son of the President, Barron.

Women are Donald Trump's main communicators in the White House, while men come and go in the American President's universe. Trump is very fond of working with women. He considers them to be loyal and harmless, while he considers men at best incompetent (like Spicer) and at worst subjects them to their own agenda and the attempt to distinguish themselves at their own expense (as recently and not without reason his strategist Bannon).

"Nobody has more respect for women than me," Trump has repeatedly asserted in his characteristic predilection for superlatives related to him. The fact that he boasted in an old audio recording that as a TV celebrity he could "grab women by the pussy" without being asked doesn’t dissuade him from this self-perception, nor does claims by porn actress Stormy Daniels and playboy model Karen McDougal to have had affairs with Trump - before his presidential candidacy, but during his current third marriage to First Lady Melania.

For the president, Hicks was a communication tool. Her "advice", which he allegedly valued, consisted of agreeing to his actions. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is no counterweight to the President of the United States either. She is suitable as his spokeswoman because she limits herself to being the voice of her boss. But she is no good as the adviser that the president, who is shifting America's self-image and driving the world crazy, urgently needs.


Note: This text is a slightly updated version of the article that appeared in the printed edition 2/2018 of the presses spokesman magazine.