MAGA media looks to turn White House briefing room into a battlefield

Source: Politico | January 25, 2021 | Christopher Cadelago and Natasha Korecki

Some Trump loving members of the press corps are eager to get access to the Biden White House.

Eric Bolling, the conservative host of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s “America This Week,” would travel regularly to Donald Trump’s White House, interviewing the former president seven times and occasionally attending press briefings.

Trump’s now gone and Bolling is facing a vastly different professional landscape. The current president is not a friend. His employer dragged its feet in declaring Joe Biden the winner. And Bolling said he’s concerned he could lose his regular credentials and be unable to tape from the White House.

And so, he’s taking steps to protect his standing. He recently submitted an application to become a member of the White House Correspondents’ Association, he said in an interview.

“I hope to hold this administration as accountable as the media held the Trump administration,” Bolling said.

Trump showered his allies in the conservative media with VIP treatment, rewarding them with interviews and access, plugging their books and programs, and in some cases seeking their counsel on everything from immigration policy to military airstrikes. But they’re on the outside now — and looking to draw blood from the new administration.

That presents an early set of challenges for the Biden team, which is trying to learn from the Obama years. Back then, it was Fox News firing most of the spitballs at a newly elected Democratic president — personified best by Glenn Beck and his chalkboard. But now, there are a host of outlets looking to occupy that space, from the mainstream right (Sinclair and the Daily Caller) to the conspiratorial fringe (OAN and Gateway Pundit). And that, even for experienced hands like press secretary Jen Psaki, poses new and awkward conundrums for a White House vowing to restore normal relations with a press that has become anything but normal.

White House officials promise a sea change from how the Trump White House interacted with the press. Biden’s team plans to lay out clear criteria for qualifying for a so-called “hard pass” to access the grounds in consultation with the WHCA, officials told POLITICO. If current passholders in the media continue to meet the criteria determined together with the correspondents’ association, they will continue to have hard passes.

White House officials stressed that they won’t take steps to banish pro-Trump voices from the White House. They don’t, for example, anticipate proactively revoking hard passes from journalists who got them under Trump. And they seem keen on not going down the same path the Obama White House did, when it took steps to freeze out Fox, but backed off amid pushback from other networks. But Biden’s aides also promised not to allow outlets to use the briefings to spread baseless conspiracies.


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