WASHINGTON — President Trump said Monday that “everybody” enjoyed his White House coronavirus briefings — including himself — and vowed they will be back, just not daily.
In an Oval Office interview with The Post during which he predicted a strong economic rebound from the coronavirus crisis by the end of the year, and offered his opinions on presumptive Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s best pick for a running mate and the sex-assault allegations facing the former vice president, Trump said the briefings were must-see TV.
And he credited his frequent clashes with reporters for making engaging content.
“We set every record with those press conferences. Six million people all the time. You know we had tremendous numbers, literally, it was in [Fox New host] Bret Baier’s slot, and we did like 30 in a row,” Trump said.
“I heard, is this true? It was the highest rated hour in cable television history. That’s what I heard. I don’t know if that’s true.”
Trump, who ended the daily briefings last week, said there would continue to be one or two a week as he pivots from crisis management to reopening the economy. He said his new White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, would be holding court at some of those sessions.
The president mused about the difference between his coronavirus briefings and his formerly packed rallies, made impossible by spread of the virus, which has sickened more than 1 million Americans, killed nearly 70,000, and left 30 million unemployed.
A lack of re-election rallies before November would be at “a big disadvantage,” he said.
“I hope we’re going to be able to get the rallies back before the election,” Trump said. “I actually think it’s very important. I think that would be a big — a big disadvantage to me if we didn’t, if we couldn’t have the rallies back.
“People are wanting the rallies. They want to have them so badly. They were informative but they were fun.”
Trump asked reporters from The Post whether rallies or his coronavirus briefings at the White House were more important, connecting the two forums as ways to “get around the fake news.”
“So, which is more important, the rally or the press conferences?” Trump inquired.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnanyGetty Images
Asked for his own preference, the president said: “I think they both work. You know, they are very different, though, I suspect.”
Trump said he enjoys sparring with reporters in the White House briefing room and that he believes “everybody” likes watching them, even senior citizens who his advisers began to believe were being turned off by hostile exchanges.
“I was told that some people didn’t like the combative attitude so much. And I can a little bit understand that. But I would say from the standpoint of watching it and wanting to watch, that would be more interesting than having boring questions asked.
“And you know, at the same time, they shouldn’t be asking the same question every press conference just trying to get a rise, you know.”
Trump claimed that if he turned off the cameras facing journalists, they would “take a different attitude. They wouldn’t care, you know. But then it wouldn’t be as good a viewing.
“A lot of people love when the press hits me, you know, when I go at it with the press — they like it,” Trump said. He admitted he liked the arena, too.
“Yeah, I do I, I’m OK with it. I’d rather have a normal, you know, normal — a more normal situation, but I do. And they like it. Some people don’t like it. I have a feeling everybody likes it because, you know, it’s more exciting than sitting there falling asleep.”
He singled out two CBS News journalists as people who particularly irritated him — Weijia Jiang and Paula Reid during the briefings.
“It wasn’t Donna Reed, I can tell you that,” Trump said, referring back to the film and TV star best known for playing Mary Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” and later starring as the mom in an eponymous family TV sitcom of the ’50s and ’60s.
“Paula Reid, she’s sitting there and I say, ‘How angry. I mean, What’s the purpose?’ They’re not even tough questions, but you see the attitude of these people, it’s like incredible.
“So you know, I enjoyed it,” Trump concluded.
“You know, we didn’t stop them. I mean, this is breaking, this, but we didn’t stop them. Because we’ll probably do maybe one a week, sometimes two depending on the news, but Kayleigh’s going to be able to do them,” Trump said.
“We’ll do them. We get a lot of people watching, and it’s the way that you get around fake news. In other words, I have a much bigger audience than anybody’s ever had.”