Yesterday, the White House press office launched a new Twitter account, @WHRapidResponse. Under the oversight of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Strategic Communications Director Alyssa Farah (per Politico), the account will “cut through the bias and provide real-time updates on the historic accomplishments of President [Trump’s] administration,” as promised in its inaugural tweet.
But, isn’t that kind of the function of the official White House Twitter account? Throughout Trump’s presidency, @WhiteHouse has posted live feeds of presidential addresses, clips from press updates, and pro-Trump news stories for its 23.8 million followers. Looking at its 20 tweets thus far, it looks like @WHRapidResponse is going to direct its “rapid response” towards calling out the haters.
Take, for instance, a tweet linking to a news story with the headline “Pelosi Shrugs Off Mob Destruction in Baltimore.” “President [Trump] will always honor our history and promote law & order,” the tweet says. “Speaker Pelosi dismissed the mob’s lawless destruction saying: “People will do what they do.” What’s more “dark and divisive” than caving to mob rule and accepting anarchy?” Updates on Trump’s “historic accomplishments”? Not so much. A direct dig at the top ranking Democrat in the House? Definitely.
President @realDonaldTrump will always honor our history and promote law & order. Speaker Pelosi dismissed the mob’s lawless destruction saying: “People will do what they do.” What’s more “dark and divisive” than caving to mob rule and accepting anarchy? https://t.co/B8spQy9cN8
— WH Rapid Response (@WHRapidResponse) July 10, 2020
A rapid response component of a political comms team is nothing new. Once a “nice to have” position in the early days of social media, a good rapid response flak became essential when the speed of new information on Twitter and the rest of the web began to explode. The firefighters of the press shop, rapid response teams are usually responsible for keeping abreast of breaking news, highlighting any positive press and quickly putting the spin on anything that could damage their boss. However, these teams don’t usually tweet as their own entities, instead operating under the politician’s official account. So why has the White House decided to take their rapid response rogue?
The White House didn’t respond to answer this question. Our best guess is that the new account is simply a digital manifestation of the administration’s new communications tactic. As Trump has continued to butcher America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and watched public support avalanche to record lows, the White House press office has had a difficult time rationalizing and defending many of his executive choices. With few options before her, McEnany has had to redefine the limits of political spin. Simple “yes or no” questions from a frustrated press corps often lead to not a clear answer, but rather a diatribe about the evil forces set out to take down the President.
But if the White House press team is looking to establish this account as a purveyor of the truth, it’s going to have to do a better job. With just 20 tweets in the last 15 hours, the response isn’t exactly “rapid,” and while the account garnered 41.7 thousand followers overnight, it’s unverified and features a cover photo of Trump standing in front of Mount Rushmore with a smarmy grin. To any casual viewer, the account could easily be the creation of a Trumpian stan dedicating their waking hours to defending the President.