On Tuesday, Sean Spicer engaged a unique tactic to take questions during a press briefing. Video of Spicer taking a Skype question from that briefing has Twitter talking. This isn't completely groundbreaking, as it's something Spicer has done before. The aim of adding Skype questions to the proceedings seems to be that it, "allows for additional reporters from around the country, who are not able to attend the briefings in person, to ask Spicer a question or two remotely," Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CBS News. And just for added alliteration, it's also known as the "Skype Seat." Clever.
But these Skype questions aren't from just anyone seeking comment on White House and political news. According to Sanders (the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee), reporters and viewers should expect Spicer to allow for about four Skype questions twice a week. And those who don't work at a credentialed Washington news organization who want to participate have to send an email showing interest.
According to an article in The New York Times outlining where reporters sit and how the briefing proceeds, "in addition to local TV networks, Skype seats have gone to conservative radio hosts and a Kentucky newspaper publisher." Lately, Spicer has been breaking with longtime procedure, in which the White House press secretaries usually prioritized the reporters sitting in the first two rows. Mr. Spicer has gone against this practice since taking on the role.
Some are concerned that Spicer is using the "Skype Seat" in order to allow for more time for questions from more conservative — even sharply right-wing —outlets. On the surface, taking questions from news sources that might not be able to access the daily briefings the way national powerhouses like NBC News, The Wall Street Journal and NPR can doesn't seem like a bad thing. And it's been noted that taking questions from reporters who aren't in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House is a first.
But how Spicer uses the new Skype feature is important. In the video above, he took a question from the Federalist Papers Project, an outlet that mediabiasfactcheck.com states has, "overt right wing bias in reporting. It often publishes misleading news stories and conspiracies that can be considered fake news." That's right. One of Trump's favorite phrases.
Twitter had a bit of fun with the question, and with the overall idea and implementation of the "Skype Seat."
Twitter user @azalben joked, "Spicer: For our next question, we go on Skype to 'that guy who always asks the first question at a comic-con panel'."
And @gilbertjasono poked fun too, tweeting an imagined conversation that went, "SKYPE REPORTER: I have a 2-part question SPICER: Go for it SKYPE REPORTER: Ok, 1st part is more of a rap-country tribute to Jeff Sessions"
In fact, most of the top responses to the Skype question taken from the Federalist Paper Project today were humorous in tone.
Twitter user @JustSchmeltzer tweeted, "SPICER: Flynn did nothing wrong.
So, why'd he feel he had to lie about it?
SPICER: Let's take a Skype question!!"
Many tweets were a nod to the tough questions about Flynn the media is pressing the White House on today. Spicer's longstanding feud with Dippin' Dots was even mentioned in one tweet, with @ParaComedian09 tweeting:
"Sean Spicer: And now for our next Skype question.
Skype: Why are Dippin' Dots the worst?
Sean Spicer: Great question."
From @Rosenberg_Mike, a slightly more serious request. They tweeted, "I want a sportswriter to Skype into Sean Spicer's next press briefing and say, 'Talk about the Russians.'"
And Oliver Willis, a research fellow at Media Matters for America, gave a nod towards the sort of bias that could emerge from these "Skype Seat" questions. In a joking manner, he tweeted, ""Cletus, senior correspondent for Democrats Suck dot com with a skype question for Mr Spicer"
John Fugelsang, a comedian, made a joke about how Spicer sometimes appears to use the Skype questions to get out of answering tougher queries by reporters in the room with him. "Spicey is the 1st Press Secretary to deploy 'Phone-a-Friend' mid-presser," he tweeted.
Sarah Cooper, or @sarahcpr, teased about the way Obama is sometimes blamed by those who are not fans of his for things he has little to do with.
"Spicey: And now for a Skype question
Skype: Obama is on vacation while Trump works hard for the American people
Spicey: Great question"
But I think we all know what the best new development at one of these press briefings would be. @cmonstah tweeted a few weeks back, "Can someone please sneak Melissa McCarthy into a White House press briefing dressed as Sean Spicer? It'd be beautiful artistic chaos."
How quickly do you think Spicer would turn to a "Skype Seat" question if that happened?!