President Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings, the administration’s single most consistent and long-running response to the pandemic, have been a failure of moral and public-health leadership from the start. But after a particularly rough series of briefings last week, it seemed that the White House had finally come to understand that the briefings were also failing to help Trump politically.
In this administration, that’s a far graver sin. “What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately,” Trump fumed on Twitter. “They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”
The White House canceled today’s briefing. Various news reports suggested that there wouldn’t be a regular press conference in the future, either, and that Trump would instead appear in other venues. And then early this afternoon, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany announced that there would be a briefing today after all.
The press conference’s resurrection from the dead—more Romero than Lazarus—vividly illustrates the administration’s narrow approach to the pandemic. Since the virus finally grabbed his attention roughly two months ago, Trump has approached the pandemic not as a public-health crisis, nor even, in practical terms, as an economic crisis. Instead, he has treated it as a communications problem that requires a good sales pitch, which he has mostly delivered via the White House briefing room.