You knew it was coming, and it didn’t take long.
Minutes after new White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki concluded her first post-inaugural briefing, Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber were accusing the White House press corps of being too soft on the freshly-minted administration. “The mostly friendly questions were a stark contrast to the way media members treated the Trump administration’s first event,” complained Brian Flood of Fox News, without noting that Trump spokesman Sean Spicer used his first briefing to promote patently false claims about the size of the inauguration crowd.READ MORE: Three Men Charged In Cheating Scheme At Encore Boston Harbor
“This is the normal honeymoon that tends to happen with presidents,” noted Trump ally Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union. “Unfortunately for Donald Trump, they started off in divorce court with the press and they never let up for one day.”
That’s debatable – there are plenty of media-watchers who claim the press was far too slow to deliver on its mandate to be skeptical and adversarial to power, like the authors of the Columbia Journalism Review’s daily newsletter, who reviewed their Trump-era work and found “a clear picture of an industry whose basic practices and rhythms have conspired, time and again, to downplay demagoguery, let Trump and his defenders off the hook, and drain resources and attention from crucial longer-term storylines.”
But we decided to put the Fox News disparagement of the White House press to our own Truth Test. We watched the entirety of today’s briefing on the administration’s climate-change policies featuring two Bostonians, former Secretary of State John Kerry, now a special envoy on climate issues, and former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy, a Dorchester native and Biden’s national climate advisor.
Kerry and McCarthy opened up with some big promises. “2021 is gonna be the year we make up for the neglect of the past four years,” vowed Kerry. And McCarthy insisted Americans would now see them “fixing the climate while creating good-paying union jobs.”
But the alleged lapdogs went right after the meat of those claims.READ MORE: Stores Are Closing But This Discount Chain Plans To Move In
Nancy Cordes of CBS News rattled off a litany of contentious issues currently souring the U.S.-China relationship and asked, “How do you plan to bring [them] to the table?” That prompted a notable concession by Kerry: “Those issues will never be traded for anything having to do with climate.”
Reporters didn’t ask about Biden’s Day 1 move to halt the controversial Keystone pipeline, terminating hundreds of temporary jobs. But they did zero in on the broader issue. One asked about “workers who stand to lose jobs”; another noted the uncertain budgetary cost of the Biden climate-change plan and the potential negative economic impact and asked, “Why are we doing this now when we’re already in an economic crisis?”
Kerry and McCarthy were forced to repeatedly claim that new jobs and economic opportunities tied to clean energy and environmental damage mitigation would more than make up for any losses, an assertion the press can and should hold the Biden team to as time goes on. There were also pointed questions about coal policy, ambitious carbon reduction goals and, repeatedly, the cost of it all.
The answers were mostly evasive as the administration officials stuck with their spin, but that’s how it works – they offer a typically self-serving narrative, we try to inject reality into the mix, and over time, any gap between promises and performance is made clear.
The knee-jerk disparagement of the press is unsurprising and premature. The proof will be in the pudding. No self-respecting journalist, whatever their personal politics, will sit in that briefing room and let themselves be lied to or treated like hungry cats eager to lap up whatever milk the administration ladles out. In any crowd of reporters, there’s always the odd misfit who doesn’t get that.MORE NEWS: 103-Year-Old Man Celebrates Birthday While Getting COVID Vaccine At Lowell General Hospital
But we didn’t see any of those in today’s White House briefing. And we hope we never do.