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Donald Trump isn’t exactly known for being camera shy. But the onetime reality TV star hasn’t used one of the presidency's most powerful communication tools — the solo news conference — in over four months.
While his frequent tweets and high-profile feuds with foes at home and abroad make Trump’s voice seem ubiquitous, he actually lags behind his predecessors significantly when it comes to formal Q-and-A sessions with the White House press corps.
In fact, while Trump has appeared 10 times alongside a foreign leader to take questions from the press — typically in fairly short sessions with question time divided between domestic and foreign press — he has only held a single solo press conference since becoming president.
On that occasion, on February 16, Trump held forth for more than an hour in a confrontational back-and-forth that culminated in Trump telling a reporter “you are fake news.”
According to the American Presidency Project, Barack Obama had held six solo press conferences and an additional nine joint Q-and-A sessions with foreign leaders at this point in his presidency.
During the same period of time, George W. Bush had held eight joint press conferences with foreign leaders — a number fairly comparable to Trump’s. But he had also appeared on his own to take press questions on three additional occasions.
And Bill Clinton had held a total of seven solo press conferences, another nine alongside leaders from abroad, and one with Attorney General-designate Janet Reno, who took several questions.
Trump also hasn’t been using his time to do a myriad of individual interviews to get his message across. His last televised sit-down interview — with FOX News’ Jeanine Pirro — was back on May 13.
The White House argues that the president is accessible through social media and that the press staff has broadened its reach by including out-of-town reporters in its press briefings.
“We have done multiple more opportunities for people to interact with the President, according to several folks that have been here for several administrations,” press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday. “We’ve looked at a lot of data that suggests when you look at the number of availabilities and interviews that the President has given, it’s pretty significant compared to past administrations.”
It’s true that, with his Twitter account, the president has offered unprecedented access to his thoughts. But when it comes to the most time-honored of White House methods of communication, Trump remains behind.