How Trump Is Considering Changing White House Press Briefings

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Trump administration is considering doing away with the assigned seating in the White House briefing room, the president-elect's pick for chief of staff, Reince Priebus, told radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Seats in the front row of the briefing room are coveted and occupied by the networks, cable outlets and wire services.

Priebus also incorrectly asserted that the arrangement was put in place by the Obama White House. The seating assignments are actually controlled by the White House Correspondents' Association.

"There was a notable factual inaccuracy in Mr Priebus's remarks: News organizations have had assigned seats in the briefing room since those seats were installed in 1981. That was not an Obama-era innovation as Mr. Priebus suggested," WHCA President Jeff Mason said in a statement.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also affirmed that the current seating arrangement pre-dates the Obama administration and suggested the incoming administration might want to read up on the issue.

"I certainly would recommend to the incoming administration that they collect and familiarize themselves with some basic facts as they consider what sort of policies to implement moving forward," Earnest said.

This morning, Priebus incorrectly told Hewitt that reporters could take any seat they wanted under the Bush administration.

"This was the first front row assigned seat issue, as I understand it, started in the Obama administration. In the Bush administration, you just took a seat, and I guess there were a couple of people that have had reserved spots. But for the most part, the more formalized reserved seating piece came in over the last eight years," Priebus said.

Priebus also said the possibility of changing the current seating assignment in the briefings "is being talked about" by the transition team.

Mason said the WHCA looks forward to working with the incoming administration to address questions or concerns about the arrangement.

"The WHCA assumed responsibility for assigning the seats in the briefing room over the last two decades at the request of both Republican and Democratic administrations, who were mindful of the potential appearance of playing favorites if they assigned the seats themselves," Mason said.

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