Even by Trumpean standards, it verged on an epic surprise.
During his daily briefing cum lecture Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sharply asserted, “They should either get with the program or they should go.”
And he heralded President Trump’s new “One In, Two Out” mantra.
But, stunningly, he was not referring to the press!
One might have assumed that, given Sunday comments by Kellyanne Conway, his joyfully combative colleague who was sitting a few feet away during Monday’s session. She’d wondered why network correspondents and pundits weren’t being canned for being unfair to the president.
In the first instance, Spicer was taking a rather primitive, head-turning shot at career officers at the State Department said to be very unhappy with Trump’s immigration executive order and its controversial execution.
In the second instance, he was referring to Trump making good on a campaign promise, in this instance ordering that any new government regulation be accompanied by the death of two in the relevant agency.
For sure, he did get in a few shots. He referred to the media “misreporting” a reorganization of the National Security Council. “Utter nonsense,” he called the reporting, deriding the media’s “spread of information.”
It was in sync with Conway’s Sunday news-making appearance on Fox News Channel in which she urged network executives to purge the ranks of anyone who predicted a Trump loss in November.
“Who is cleaning house?” she asked. “Which one is going to be the first network to get rid of these people, the people who think things were just not true?”
“I…spoke for 35 minutes on three network Sunday shows,” Conway continued. “You know what got picked? The fact that I said ‘alternative facts,’ not the fact that I ripped a new one to some of those hosts that they never cover the facts that matter.”
Well, major news executives whom I contacted at MSNBC, CNN, CBS News and The New York Times were too pragmatic to continue any spitball fight with Conway. They declined comment.
As a University of Chicago media panel on Trump coverage underscored last week, some top executives just won’t rise to the bait of the new administration (unless, presumably, personally and very specifically attacked).