The School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) hosted a panel Monday night consisting of several members of the White House press corps, a GW political science professor and the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Opening to a full house, White House Correspondents Association president Margaret Talev had this to say,
“We champion the First Amendment, and it’s an important time to champion the First Amendment.”
The discussion, facilitated by Talev and SMPA director Frank Sesno, was akin to a debate between members of the press and the press secretary. It was called “Trump’s First Year,” to mark approximately one year into the Trump presidency.
Early into the panel discussion, April Ryan from American Urban Radio Networks challenged Sanders on the Trump Administration’s claims of supporting historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Sanders responded saying that the administration has done a lot for HBCUs, including moving the office that deals with them from the Department of Education to the White House.
“This problem was not created overnight,” Sanders said, “and it will not be solved overnight.”
One phrase that was repeated throughout the panel was “bully pulpit.” First brought up by John Roberts, White House correspondent for Fox News. He jokingly uttered the term coined by Theodore Roosevelt after referring to his lengthy tenure covering the White House.
Others on the panel jumped on this phrase, calling out Trump for not utilizing his “bully pulpit” to condemn racism.
When asked to comment on the relationship between the press corps and the White House, the journalists had some feedback:
Olivier Knox, White House correspondent for Yahoo News, said that the White House is much more organized with Sanders as press secretary. He also added that Sanders is much more respected internally than her predecessor Sean Spicer. He said that he had received many “poisonous stories” about Spicer from sources within the White House, but none so far about Sanders.
Ryan said that she wants the communication between the White House and the press to be more organized, citing a recent incident where she received a last-minute phone call to report to the Rose Garden.
“Things are still much more chaotic than both the press and the administration would like,” Ryan said.
Glenn Thrush, White House correspondent for The New York Times, explained that Trump has made the press his new political opponent. According to him, Trump needs an opponent to bring down because his own favorability is low. Thrush said that Trump is making the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the press his opponents.
Sanders criticized the increase in anonymously sourced stories. She said that she would work to have more on-the-record conversations with the press, which garnered an applause from the audience, comprised mostly of students.
To conclude the event, Sanders thanked the rest of the panel for having “an open and honest discussion.”
The event was broadcast live on C-SPAN as well as Facebook live. It is available to watch on the SMPA Facebook page.