Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump should “close down the White House press briefing room.”
“I am personally offended by the American news media. I think it is destructive and disgusting. It is a danger to the country right now,” Gingrich said. He also said the press should be banished to a nearby Starbucks and that Spicer should take questions from the American people. “Just say to the American people, you get to choose,” Gingrich said.
Closing the press briefing room would send a message to the country “that the media is a corrupt institution and he is tired of being harassed by people whose only interest is making him look bad.”
Gingrich, an adviser to Trump who recently wrote a book about him, frequently speaks to top aides — and his wife is the leading candidate to become ambassador to the Vatican. His view reflects a broader take from the administration and from Trump, who often rages about his news media coverage and has proposed ending the daily White House briefings. Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, has called the media “the opposition party.”
Another adviser who frequently talks to Trump said the president is often “personally stung” by the coverage and ruminates on it more than other issues. Inside the White House over the past week, Trump has fumed to press secretary Sean Spicer and top advisers and aides about his coverage and has polled outside advisers about making widespread changes to his operation. One White House official said TV coverage “can dictate the entire agenda of a day or week.”
Trump likes Gingrich because he is a pugnacious defender of the president, and he has sometimes referenced Gingrich’s comments on TV in White House meetings, aides and advisers have said.
The former speaker, who said he was traveling in Ukraine, was infuriated by recent coverage of Trump’s alleged disclosures to the Russian foreign minister of classified intelligence that was reportedly obtained from Israel and the firing of the FBI director. Gingrich said that the president has a right “to declassify anything he wants to,” and that presidents for centuries have disclosed sensitive information in chats with foreign officials. He also said that reporters shouldn’t print information they couldn’t attach a name to.
“You guys are nuts,” he said.
Gingrich said 10 percent of Trump’s problems are from his White House’s mistakes — and 90 percent come from the American news media, who he said wakes up every morning trying to damage Trump’s presidency. “I don’t care what he does with his staff,” Gingrich said.
The former speaker said he had been watching CNN in Kiev and feared the coverage would sink in to foreign countries and the image projected by the American news media is “totally misleading and totally false.”
“There are people here who read this crap and thinks we should be afraid. You have a national defense team of Mattis, Kelly and Tillerson. This is the best team since Eisenhower,” he said.
“These people around the world read you as though you’re real,” he said. “The damage the news media is doing to the United States is despicable.”
Gingrich said he was walking home from dinner and had little else to say.
“Goodbye,” he said, before the phone clicked.
Annie Karni contributed to this report.