White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ plan to ring in the holiday season by making reporters look uncomfortable largely went off without a hitch during Monday’s press briefing — with one notable exception.
After opening the briefing with a Q&A session, courtesy of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Sanders dove into her usual canned press statement by noting that it was the “last press briefing before the Thanksgiving holiday.” As such, she said, she would be sharing “a few things” that she was thankful for — and she expected each reporter with a question to do the same.
“Obviously, you probably know…that I’m clearly very thankful for all of you here in the room. I think that goes without saying,” she joked, before listing off a few things she was actually thankful for, including law enforcement, firemen and first responders, and the military.
For some reason, most reporters played along. Several reporters proceeded to share a laundry list of things for which they, too, were thankful — like their children, the military, policemen and women, faith and religion, and spouses who finally said yes to their proposal on the fourth try.
Then there was Cecilia Vega, ABC News’ Senior White House Correspondent.
“I’m thankful for the First Amendment,” Vega said when called on, before launching immediately into a question about the official White House stance on the Roy Moore controversy. The statement drew audible “ooh”s from the rest of the press corps.
Sanders responded quickly, “I think we all are.”
“Yeah, we’re part of it though,” American Urban Radio Networks correspondent and CNN contributor April Ryan countered.
Vega wasn’t the only reporter to cite the First Amendment (though there certainly should have been more). Also jumping on the train to Constitutionville was Bloomberg White House correspondent Margaret Talev, who said that she was “thankful for the First Amendment” but also for the opportunity to partake in the gratefulness “exercise.”
White House reporter Zeke Miller of the Associated Press dodged the “exercise” altogether before being called out for his party foul.
“Zeke, you did break the rule of not offering anything you were thankful for,” Sanders joked, implying that he should course correct.
Thankfully for everyone in the room — and America — Miller declined the suggestion.
The Trump administration, of course, has been notoriously anti-press since day one. Trump himself has labeled any outlet that refuses to kowtow to his agenda “fake news” and has frequently incited violence against reporters at both his campaign rallies and on Twitter.
The White House, too, has publicly waffled on whether to continue the tradition of a regular, on-camera press briefing and has regularly shot down journalists’ questions by implying that they’re somehow acting inappropriately by asking for comments on high-profile news stories. Occasionally, officials have utitlized the White House press briefings to trot out manipulated stories or all-out falsehoods that support their agenda.
It’s curious, then, that majority of the White House press corps would overlook their constitutional right to report the news and speak freely when considering the things for which they should be most grateful in 2017 (while those rights still exist).
Then again, maybe they just really, really wanted to get this over with.