“The press access we put together was based on the guidance we received from all of you over the last eight years about what the priority is,” Earnest told reporters in his daily press briefing, referring to the photograph and brief on-camera interview that President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump did in the Oval Office.
Cable networks spent the morning with their cameras trained on the doors outside the West Wing, hoping for footage of their first handshake, but came up empty-handed. At around 11:20 a.m., anchors belatedly reported that the meeting between the current and future Presidents had been underway without their knowledge for twenty minutes.
The Wall Street Journal had reported that the first couple canceled the photo-op in a break from previous transitions, like when the Obamas posed for news cameras alongside President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, during their first visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after the 2008 election.
Earnest told reporters that no such cancelation occurred, but that the first couples' photo was “lower in priority” than the photo opportunity inside the Oval Office.
Pushed to answer whether the first couples' shoot didn’t happen because Michelle Obama “spoke passionately about how she found Donald Trump to be an unacceptable choice,” Earnest insisted that was not the reason.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “In fact, I'm not aware the first lady's office was consulted about the press arrangements about today.”
Earnest promised to check with the White House photographer to see if the greeting was documented.
On the campaign trail, the Trumps and Obamas spoke of each other in personal, biting terms. The President-elect helped push the theory that Obama was not born in the United States, and Obama repeatedly criticized Trump as unfit and unqualified to hold the office of President.
In the wake of Tuesday's election, the Obama said he would do everything in his power to ensure a “successful” transition to a Trump administration.