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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Flashback: Clinton White House said on-camera briefings weren't "necessary"

Just weeks into the new administration, the former President Bill Clinton's administration decided to turn off the cameras for most of George Stephanopolous' press briefings, just as the Trump administration has.

White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers explained in a March 1993 C-SPAN interview that the White House went with live, on-camera briefings to the press for a few weeks.

 But she said they stopped because the live briefings weren't "really necessary." 

 "I think that that was something that we did in the first week or two, I can't remember exactly when we stopped it," Myers said. "It was a new administration, I think we wanted to talk about what was going on here," she said. 

"I think we found that it wasn't really necessary." "The briefing is more an opportunity to exchange ideas and to have a conversation about what's happening," Myers added.

 "That wasn't really happening in a way that ... as productively as we had hoped." Myers said the White House then switched formats so that only the top of the noon-hour briefing was televised live.

 "What we do now is televise the first five minutes of George Stephanopolous's briefings at 12:30 everyday," she said. "And the rest of it's on the record but just not for cameras." 

 The Trump White House has been sharply criticized for holding a series of off-camera "gaggles" that can be used on the record, but aren't televised.

 Reporters have argued that this isn't enough access, but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the live briefings are not productive in part because they are giving reporters a chance to become "YouTube stars." 

 Myers also added that the Clinton administration closed down press access to Stephanopolous's office, and said they tried to make up for that move by making officials more available to reporters.

 Years after she retired, Myers said Hillary Clinton supported that idea.

 But Myers disapproved of it, and called it a "rookie mistake."

"Well, obviously, in hindsight it was a hideous mistake," she said in a PBS interview.

 "It just alienated people who had been working in the building for years."

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