White House reporters had their seats moved closer together in violation of CDC guidelines because it 'looks better'

AP Photo/Evan VucciPresident Donald Trump speaks after signing the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, June 5, 2020, in Washington. Reporters were forced to sit closer together in violation of the federal government’s own social distancing guidelines.
  • After months of reporters sitting farther apart and resorting to a rotation to limit capacity at press conferences, the White House moved the press corps’ seats closer together in the Rose Garden today.
  • “It looks better,” according to the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
  • “The chairs were initially positioned in a way that was consistent with social distancing guidelines but were moved closer together by White House staff shortly before the event started,” Jon Karl, president of the WHCA and the chief White House correspondent for ABC News, wrote in a statement.
  • “The health of the press corps should not be put in jeopardy because the White House wants reporters to be a prop.”
  • President Trump has previously riffed about the spaced out seating in both the briefing room and outdoors, and did not formally answer any questions at the Rose Garden press conference.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

White House staff bunched the press corps’ seats closer together at a Friday news conference in the Rose Garden because “it looks better,” according to the White House Correspondents’ Association.

The socially distanced seating arrangement being scrapped marks the latest tiff between the Trump administration and the White House press corps

In a terse statement, WHCA President Jon Karl described what led to the new setup.

“Today the White House press office positioned the seating for the President’s Rose Garden ‘news conference’ in a way that violated the federal government’s guidelines on social distancing and needlessly put reporters health at risk,” Karl wrote.

“The chairs were initially positioned in a way that was consistent with social distancing guidelines but were moved closer together by White House staff shortly before the event started.

“When we asked for an explanation, the White House press office told us the decision to move the chairs close together was made because ‘it looks better.'”

Karl went on to note that the move – which violates the CDC’s own social distancing guidelines – put the reporters’ safety at risk (there have already been multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the White House).

“The health of the press corps should not be put in jeopardy because the White House wants reporters to be a prop for a ‘news conference’ where the president refused to answer any questions.”

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