On Sunday’s Reliable Sources Brian Stelter mentioned that 2 ”I’s” would dominate the news of the week. By Monday he needed to add one more to the list — ”I could not get a free meal’‘, was apparently big news to the media guru.
One of the more moving aspects of last night’s State Of The Union speech was President Trump awarding Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. Limbaugh was clearly moved, but there was a lack of surprise in the media — the news of the presentation had broken in the press hours earlier. It was not supposed to be a news item.
This was because President Trump had announced his intention to do so during his SOTU at an annual press luncheon earlier that afternoon. The luncheon is held for television news anchors, where the president is available for lengthy question sessions. The surprise of the announcement is that it was reported, due to the fact that these SOTU luncheons are off-the-record events. While the information getting out is not a shock in the current D.C. climate of perpetual leaks, it was still a matter of concern for the White House.
Forensic analysis on the provenance of the news story leads one to CNN.
It was Monday evening when Brian Stelter from the news outlet announced that they had learned details that the on-air talent from CNN would not be included among the invitees to the SOTU luncheon. This was not a mere oversight, as Wolf Blitzer has actually been in attendance at this particular function for the past 20 consecutive years. Stelter felt that their missing out on a free lunch was big enough news to warrant a BREAKING tag be applied to his newsletter.
As a result of this deeply troubling decision made by the White House, (seriously Brian, have a Snickers…) CNN elected to get some petty revenge. Since they were not permitted to attend, the network felt unbidden by the OTR status of the news from the luncheon so the decision was made to break the news of the Limbaugh award presentation a little more than three hours prior to the SOTU speech. The closing paragraph detailed the resentfulness.
Like presidents before him, Trump invites anchors from all the major networks to dine with him at the White House in advance of his State of the Union address. The conversation is considered off the record, but CNN was excluded this year, and therefore did not agree to the mandate. Other anchors did attend the lunch.
To say the White House took this news leak seriously is a fair statement. Ahead of the speech, the White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham was asked about the breaking news item. Her response was terse and packed with import. “I actually have ethics so I’m not going to comment on an off the record lunch.”
Following the news release, and just ahead of the SOTU speech, Grisham sat in with Tucker Carlson and she expanded on her reaction. “I think this is going to impact any more off the record opportunities in our White House again,” she explained. That comment perked up Tucker, and led him to ask Grisham directly, would President Trump continue to hold next year’s State Of The Union luncheon, if he remains the president? ”I can’t speak for him, of course, that would be his decision,” was her reply, ”but I absolutely will advise against it.”
Well done CNN, you continue the practice of press antagonism leading to negatively impacting media events. White House press briefings are already a fond memory, but other events have been curtailed. Reporters saying they would boycott the White House Press Christmas party led to President Trump suspending that event, and their hostility chased Trump from the White House Correspondents Dinner, reducing that event to a shadow of its former versions.
Should President Trump be reelected the press could have fewer and fewer events at their disposal regarding contact with the administration. It seems certain only one of those parties involved would be upset by this.