Press Briefing

Off-Camera Baby In The Corner


To explain why the White House has started holding press briefings “off camera,” the very svelte Steve Bannon said, “Sean got fatter.”  While Spicy is indeed a chunky monkey, nobody actually believes Bannon’s hypocritical fat-shaming explanation.

Every president’s administration battles with the press. While Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had their issues with the media, Republicans use it as a campaign tactic. Both Bush administrations would print up bumper stickers which read “annoy the media. Vote Republican.” The media doesn’t care who you vote for.

The press has always had low approval ratings because people don’t like the bearers of bad news, or any news that conflicts with what they believe and wants to hear. Donald Trump and his collection of sycophants have gone beyond using the press as an opposition, and have fully labeled them as the “enemy of the American people.” Republicans love the Constitution, except for that pesky First Amendment thingy.

Not content with describing legitimate news outlets as “fake news” delivering hoaxes, Trump’s team is now conducting White House press briefings off camera. While they’re allowing audio, they’re not allowing the press to deliver that in real time. They have to wait until the briefing is over before they can play it for their audience. How lovely.

Trump’s biggest grudges are with The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN. The Times and Post have both been on a tear lately with their investigative reporting on Trump’s campaign and their involvement with Russia. It’s not “fake news” that both newspapers circulations have risen since the election of the man who hates news. When it comes to the press briefings, they’re shunning CNN’s Jim Acosta. They haven’t allowed him to ask a question for several weeks, or at least they won’t answer them. His question “Why don’t we turn the cameras on?” went unanswered. Sean Spicer pretended he didn’t hear the question and moved on to another reporter.

On Tuesday, deputy spokesgoon Sarah Huckabee Sanders went on a rant about news organizations reporting, again, “fake news.” She brought up a recent incident where CNN had to retract a story on the Russia investigation and three of their journalists resigned over the transgression. What she and other conservatives don’t understand is that’s how an actual news organization handles a mistake. How many people have resigned from Fox News or Breitbart over false reports, which are published on their outlets quite frequently.

The White House spokespeople complain about fake news and lies, yet Spicer’s very first press briefing, where he didn’t take any questions, was only about Trump’s bogus crowd sizes. This administration has leaked information anonymously and has retweeted and promoted false information from right-wing news outlets. They’re like your crazy tinfoil-hat wearing uncle who complains about the “lame-stream media,” yet shares links on Facebook to Breitbart and Infowars.

Brian Karem, executive editor of Sentinel Newspapers in Maryland took Huckabee to task for her comments about the press.
Karem said: “Come on, you’re inflaming everybody right here, right now, with those words. This administration has done that as well. Why in the name of heaven — any one of us are replaceable, and any one of us, if we don’t get it right, the audience has the opportunity to turn the channel or not read us.

You have been elected to serve for four years at least. There is no option other than that. We’re here to ask you questions. You’re here to provide the answers. And what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, “See, once again, the president is right and everybody else out here is fake media.” And everybody out here is only trying to do their job.”

Sanders responded calmly and said, “I think if anything has been inflamed, it’s the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media.” And then she asked the press to watch a video and described it, “There’s a video circulating now — whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know — but I would encourage everybody in this room, and frankly everybody across this country, to take a look at it.”  Yes, she did that with a straight face.

I do appreciate Mr. Karem’s defense of the media, but to be fair, he does have a blemish on his journalistic record that I take personally as it was an insult to what I do.

In 2015 his newspaper published plagiarized cartoons. These cartoons weren’t copied or redrawn by his “cartoonist,” who I had never heard of before this was reported. These cartoons were published with the art from the original creators, but the text was changed along with the artists’ signature. Mr. Karem pulled the cartoons off his site but I’m not aware if he fired the guy. The two failings for Mr. Karem in this instance is that he didn’t notice that the cartoonist’s supposed drawing style was changing from week to week (depending on which cartoonist he was ripping off), and that he allowed a cartoonist to work anonymously. Editorial cartoonists need to subscribe to the same ethics and expectations of all journalists. I don’t accept any exceptions, ever. Neither should newspaper editors.

Unlike the Sentinel and Mr. Karem, CNN hires real artists. In fact, they sent their courtroom reporter, William Hennessy to live draw Monday’s press briefing. As you can see here, Mr. Hennessy is a real artist.

I would offer my services but the subjects will come out cartoony. However, I believe I would accurately describe the situation.

Creative notes: No, I didn’t trace Mr. Hennessy’s work. Feel free to compare. I did copy and attempted to emulate his style. I deviated from the scratchy technique to draw Spicer in his bib and diapers. It had to look like Clay Jones drew something in the cartoon. By the way, Hennessy’s work is FANTASTIC and I have the greatest respect for courtroom sketch artist. But, I think my depiction of Sean Spicer is better. What do you think?

It’s really hard being a one-man syndicate when editors (who receive death threats from Trump supporters) are afraid of cartoons with opinions, while I’m also competing against other syndicates with dozens of cartoonists (who offer lots of right-wing cartoons and the kind without any opinions). So your support (if you can) is appreciated. Want to help me continue to create cartoons and keep doing what I’m doing (pissing off conservatives)? Look to the right of this page and make a donation through PayPal. Every $50 donation will receive a signed print. All donations will receive my eternal gratitude.