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WASHINGTON – The first version of President Donald Trump’s daily schedule for Monday listed an evening event that has become an almost daily ritual: A press briefing with members of the White House coronavirus task force.
But early Monday, the White House abruptly sent out a revised schedule with an italicized note at the top: “The 5PM press briefing has been canceled,” it read.
A little more than two hours later, the White House put out another revision topped with yet another italicized note: “UPDATE: The President holds a news conference at 5PM.”
The on, off and back-on-again nature of Monday’s press briefing came amid reports that the White House is looking to scale back the news conferences as Trump has ratcheted up his ongoing feud with the media.
The White House did not hold a news briefing this past Saturday or Sunday, as it has done most weekends since the briefings started in mid-March. Trump’s last briefing, held on Friday, lasted just 22 minutes and ended without him taking any questions from the press.
Trump himself seemed to suggest the briefings might not continue.
“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,” he tweeted on Saturday. “They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”
But White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted the administration has no plans to end the briefings permanently.
“We’re looking at different ways to showcase this president leading,” she said during an appearance on Fox News. “The briefing is a key component of that. We will have briefings this week. But again, the media needs to not read into what’s happening and look at this as an opportunity for the president to speak to the American people.”
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McEnany said the briefings would continue but that they might have “a different look.”
Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House coronavirus task force have held the briefings almost daily since mid-March to provide updates on the administration’s efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 56,000 Americans.
But Trump’s tendency to lash out at reporters who ask what he considers hostile questions and to speak off the cuff have often overshadowed the administration's daily coronavirus message. Trump was roundly criticized after floated the idea of using ultraviolet light or disinfectants to treat COVID-19 during last Thursday’s briefing.
Texas-based Republican political strategist Matt Mackowiak said Trump should cut back on the briefings.
“I think more limited use of press briefings will benefit the White House,” Mackowiak said. “Too much exposure gives too many opportunities for mistakes that take away from the good work being done. Less is more. It will be better to save briefings for days when you have significant announcements.”
Contributing: David Jackson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: White House cancels, then reschedules press briefing