Sean Spicer says White House has 'tremendous respect' for First Amendment in first press briefing in over a week

White House press secretary Sean Spicer: AP
White House press secretary Sean Spicer: AP

Appearing in the White House’s first on-camera press briefing in more than a week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said that the Trump administration has “tremendous respect” for the First Amendment.

Reporters that cover the White House have grown frustrated by the fewer number of briefings, which have traditionally been held daily and on-camera. Over the course of Donald Trump’s first six months as president, briefings have become less frequent, shorter and increasingly off-camera.

The White House even told journalists on Monday that that day’s off-camera briefing could not be filmed or broadcasted with audio.

“Call me old fashioned but I think the White House of the United States of America should have the backbone to answer questions on camera,” tweeted CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

During Tuesday’s briefing – which the White House scheduled that morning after more criticism from the press – Mr Spicer defended the administration’s new communications strategy.

“We’re going to do what we can to communicate our message, we have tremendous respect for the First Amendment and your ability to do your job and report and seek out ideas,” Mr Spicer said. “We’ll work with you. I think the briefing is one aspect of what we do. We’re here really early in the morning and really late at night available to all your questions, whether in person or over email.”

“While you guys will always advocate for more transparency and access, I think we’ve done a very good job of not just providing opportunities here at the daily briefing, but also making ourselves available as a staff almost 24 hours a day,” Mr Spicer added.

During his campaign, Mr Trump suggested that as president he would enact new restrictions on the First Amendment’s guaranteed freedom of the press. While his threats to 'open up our libel laws' to make it easier to sue media outlets have not come to fruition, the now-US leader has discussed eliminating press briefings completely, in favour of written briefings.

Mr Spicer’s remarks on Tuesday came amid speculation that he is looking for his own replacement at the briefing room podium, which could be part of a larger plan to shake up the White House communications staff.

Mike Dubke resigned as White House communications director last month after a series of legal and political threats began to torment the administration.

During the briefing, Mr Spicer suggested that changes may be coming.

“It's no secret we've had a couple of vacancies including our communications director...we've been seeking input from people as far as what ideas they might have,” Mr Spicer said.

“We've been meeting with potential people that may be of service to this administration...we're always looking for ways to do a better job of articulating the president's agenda and we'll continue to have those discussions internally and when we have an announcement of a personnel nature, we'll let you know."

Candidates for the role of press secretary and communications director reportedly include Fox News personality Laura Ingraham and Daily Mail editor David Martosko, respectively, according to Politico.