Journalists criticize White House’s lack of transparency on Trump’s health and whereabouts
October 5, 2020
Then some two hours later, the president rolled by the facility during an impromptu drive to thank his supporters, who have been camped outside the medical center in Bethesda, Md.
Axios reporter Alayna Treene, who was the press representative, said there was no heads-up. “The pool was not informed of this ahead of time, and we have not been called back to the White House or Walter Reed,” she said in a dispatch shortly afterward. (Deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere called it “a short, last-minute motorcade ride.”)
The episode was indicative of the disconnect between the Trump administration and a press corps eager for accurate and timely information about the president’s condition.
Associated Press White House reporter Zeke Miller, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, sent a strongly worded statement to The Washington Post taking the administration to task. “It is outrageous for the president to have left the hospital — even briefly — amid a health crisis without a protective pool present to ensure that the American people know where their president is and how he is doing,” he said. “Now more than ever, the American public deserves independent coverage of the president so they can be reliably informed about his health.”
On CNN on Sunday night, White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond said “there was no warning, there was no notice from the White House that the president was about to do this.”
It was not the first frustration of the day for the journalists covering the president’s condition.
Just before noon, White House physician Sean Conley addressed journalists in a news conference, during which he shared some information about the president’s condition — and need for supplemental oxygen — though he declined to answer other questions, including one about whether the president is being treated in a negative-pressure room.
CNN’s Jake Tapper was apparently not pleased with Conley’s response. “Excuse me?” he said on the air. “You’re ‘not going to get into the specifics of his care?’”
After Conley said he had wanted to “reflect [an] upbeat attitude” during his news briefing on Saturday, explaining the discrepancy between his rosy assessment and a more dour prognosis that was initially provided anonymously before being attributed to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Tapper said, “I don’t need an ‘upbeat attitude’ as an American citizen. I need to know the facts about how the president is doing.”
Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, said Conley was “dancing around really important questions.”
Later in the broadcast, the network’s chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, took things one step further. “We don’t need a medical briefing from a Baghdad Bob,” she said, drawing a comparison to Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, who provided daily, propagandistic news briefings on behalf of Saddam Hussein’s government during the Iraq War.
“He had the facts,” Fox News correspondent Trace Gallagher said on his network. “He just chose not to share them.”