Sean Spicer is set to face an increasingly rare on-camera briefing Tuesday as Steve Bannon said the press secretary was on television less often because he “got fatter”.
It came as Mr Spicer was understood to be headed for a less visible but more senior communications role within the White House. He was said to be looking for his own replacement as press secretary.
On Monday US media organisations including CNN objected as Mr Spicer, not for the first time, barred TV and audio recording of a briefing.
Asked by the Atlantic why cameras were being banned Mr Bannon, the White House chief strategist, replied in a text message: “Sean got fatter.”
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Mr Spicer defended the off-camera approach saying he wants President Donald Trump’s voice to be heard on the airwaves rather than his own.
He said: “There are days that I’ll decide that the president’s voice should be the one that speaks and iterate his priorities.”
Jim Acosta, CNN’s Senior White House Correspondent, said off-camera briefings were “basically pointless”. He said: “It feels like we’re slowly but surely being dragged into what is a new normal in this country where the president of the United States is allowed to insulate himself from answering hard questions.” Mr Acosta suggested there may end up being a boycott of the White House by media organisations.
Discussions about overhauling the White House communications office have been happening for several weeks. Communications director Mike Dubke left in early June.
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Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy White House press secretary. said: “We have sought input from many people as we look to expand our communications operation. As he did in the beginning, Sean Spicer is managing both the communications and press office.”
Possible staffing additions including Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host and political commentator.
In April Mr Spicer apologised for making an “inappropriate and insensitive” statement comparing Adolf Hitler to Syrian President Bashar Assad by suggesting Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons”.
In May Mr Trump threatened to shut down the traditional daily White House press briefings, telling Fox News that Mr Spicer was “doing a good job, but he gets beat up”.