Why is press secretary Stephanie Grisham always on Fox News? It's because 'they ask,' she says

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham in the Rose Garden in November. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

It's hardly news that Stephanie Grisham doesn't do press briefings. Since President Donald Trump appointed her White House press secretary in July, she hasn't done a single one, becoming noticeable, ironically, by being nearly invisible in her official role.

Instead, Grisham, who is also White House communications director, does most of her public communicating via Fox News. She is a near-staple on the network, appearing 26 times for extended interviews since August, more than all of her other network TV appearances combined.

Her Fox News interviews have spanned across the network's lineup, from "Fox & Friends" in the morning to its midday programs and prime-time talk shows hosted by Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. During the impeachment deliberations in November and December, she appeared 15 times, disparaging House Democrats' actions as "a sham" and the testimony of administration officials as "a joke." At other times, echoing her boss, she has used her Fox News platform to hammer the media.

Why Fox News and nearly Fox alone?

Grisham offers a surprising answer: Because Fox News asks. And because they have the time for her.

"Fox often requests me," she wrote in an exchange of emails on Tuesday, "and they have 24-hour news, so of course there are more opportunities for me to be on."

Grisham offered no comment on other possibilities: that Fox News consistently has the largest audience of the cable networks, that it offers a friendly environment for Trump and his allies, that it speaks to Trump's base, or that Grisham is merely doing what her boss does. Since becoming president, Trump has given 68 interviews to Fox News, compared with no more than seven with any other TV source, according to a tally by CBS White House reporter Mark Knoller.

Grisham insisted the primary consideration is that Fox invites her: "They (Fox) ask for me more because they have more programming," she said. "The nets have daytime and evening TV. Fox does not."

Neither statement is strictly true. Numerous domestic broadcast and 24-hour cable networks - including CNN and MSNBC - as well as foreign broadcasters cover the White House on a full-time basis, and many have requested interviews with Grisham.

"We extend offers to her regularly, and she has an open invitation to appear on CNN," network spokeswoman Barbara Levin said. Grisham has never given an interview to CNN, nor has Trump as president. Trump has deemed CNN "fake news" and has sought to bar from the White House two of its reporters, Jim Acosta and Kaitlan Collins, as well as a CNN contributor, Brian Karem.

As recently as this weekend, NBC invited Grisham to be on the "Today" show but was turned down, said Errol Cockfield, a network spokesman.

But Grisham denied any favoritism or punitive approach in dealing with the White House press corps. "I don't favor anyone," she wrote. "I do what I think is best for the president and this administration on any given week based on the topic."

She added, "I'll also remind you (again) that I take questions (off camera) from all networks and print outlets all day, every day ... and oftentimes, those very same outlets choose to run anonymous sources over my on-the-record responses. That is not something I can control. My team and I do all that we can to serve the press corps through briefings by subject matter experts, background calls, informational materials, access to the president and top members of this administration."

Grisham's aversion to holding briefings drew some indirect criticism on Friday from her predecessors. In an open letter, 13 former White House, State Department and Pentagon spokespeople representing the three previous administrations called for restoring press briefings (it's been 310 days since the last one, as of Wednesday).

Without mentioning Grisham by name, they wrote, "We believed that regular briefings were good for the American people, important for the administrations we served, and critical for the governing of our great country. ... The public has a right to know what its government is doing, and the government has a duty to explain what it is doing."

More direct shots at Grisham came from CNN prime-time host Anderson Cooper, who questioned in a segment of his show why she wasn't fulfilling her basic duty as press secretary, and from authors Don Winslow and Stephen King, who offered to donate $200,000 to charity if Grisham would publicly answer questions from the press for an hour. "And all you have to do is YOUR DAMN JOB!" tweeted King.

Grisham doesn't seem moved. She fired back at the former press secretaries on Monday during ... a Fox News interview. "I think the notion that policy would be done based on the fact that press briefings are held is quite silly," she told the network.

In an email, she added, "TV is not everything," pointing out that others in the administration - including Vice President Mike Pence, Cabinet secretaries and counselor Kellyanne Conway, as well as the president himself - regularly engage with the media.

"I'm not the end-all be-all of this admin," she said.

Grisham is scheduled to appear on "Fox & Friends" Thursday morning.

grisham