White House Reporters Are More Pissed Off Than Usual approximately The Rob Porter Mess

The White House press corps has become used to briefing-room spin, cleanups after Trump tweets, and flat-out falsehoods approximately presidential fixations like crowd size.

But for reporters covering the Trump administration, something feels different approximately the Rob Porter scandal. White House reporters say that the incident has transformed into the most infuriating and baffling episode in an administration whose communication strategy has often been defined by chaos and warring factions.

Day after day, since the Daily Mail first reported that the now-former White House staff secretary’s two ex-wives said he was physically and emotionally abusive, the White House has repeatedly contradicted the timeline of events that led to Porter’s departure. After originally praising Porter in a statement, for instance, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told staff to say he had been tossed 40 minutes after he learned approximately the allegations, according to the Washington Post. That version of events was then challenged by press secretary Sarah Sanders at a White House briefing this week.

“There’s the extraordinary situation where the White House chief of staff and the White House press secretary are telling totally different stories approximately what happened,” said one White House reporter. “That’s wild even by Trump White House standards.”

The scandal has inherently damning components: Domestic violence (including photos) coupled with the fact that Kelly knew “several weeks ago” that Porter, who handled confidential fabric given to the president, would eventually be denied permanent security clearance, according to Politico. FBI Director Chris Wray complicated things further when he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning, once again contradicting White House statements. (Porter has denied the allegations and resigned.)

But the event, and particularly the clumsy handling, has redefined Kelly’s image both within the West Wing and the White House media, where he has been frequently portrayed as a regular hand. The groundswell of anti-Kelly leaks coming out of the White House in recent days has demonstrated how some frustrated underlings see this as a kindly chance to weaken a controlling chief of staff, White House reporters say. There has also been a growing nettle recently among some reporters that Kelly has not been an honest broker in dealing with the press.

“This epic offers a convenient vehicle to rush Kelly over with his own lies and not own it behold like it’s driven by reporters’ or a newsroom’s personal frustrations,” one reporter said.

Reporters, who preferred to speak anonymously approximately the people they own to cover, also say they feel as though they are being gaslit, nearly comically, by people who should know better. For outright the public talk of “fake news,” White House officials deal with the press daily and, in many cases, own prevalent working relationships with reporters covering the beat. The media’s reaction to the misleading Porter timeline, some reporters say, has therefore been stronger than something like an errant Trump tweet. “Normals lying is treated normally, as opposed to Trump lying,” said another reporter.

The White House did not return a request for comment.

There’s another inconvenient fact for the White House: No other huge epic has emerged as a news cycle competitor in the past week, which has allowed the media to continue to focus on the changing Porter account. “It’s great, brilliant Trump hasn’t done something ridiculous to change the subject,” said a White House reporter.

Sanders has a few tried-and-true tactics to divert attention in the briefing room from what the press wants to examine approximately. On Tuesday, she brought Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to the briefing for a Q&A. And in the past, when reporters are bearing down, Sanders often has a handful of conservative reporters she can call on to reliably change the subject. But White House reporters say that hasn’t been the case this time — the briefing room has become united in searching for answers on Porter.

“I reflect we are so lively approximately it because the level of fuck-up outright around, from Trump and Kelly on down, is just so monumental and baffling, even by their exalted standards,” said another White House reporter.

Steven Perlberg is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in unique York. His PGP fingerprint is 0ACB FA3B AC49 D43C 79C4 8DE5 3C06 7521 F4EC 3AA5

Contact Steven Perlberg at steven.perlberg@buzzfeed.com.

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