A former White House stenographer, who began her career during the Obama administration, revealed President Trump’s immediate habit of breaking with protocol and his distaste for being recorded.
Beck Dorey-Stein nabbed a job under President Obama by way of an ad on Craigslist in 2012 and briefly remained on as a Presidential stenographer following Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. In a recent editorial for the New York Times, Dorey-Stein recalls how Presidents on both sides of the aisle have relied on stenographers as a means of protection.
“We weren’t powerful, but we were respected; George W. Bush used to call out ‘I love Stenos!’ whenever he saw my boss, Peggy, or her colleagues,” she wrote. “Our job, after all, was to provide a first line of defense against the press by being present whenever a reporter was in the same room as the president.”
But in her new memoir, "From the Corner of the Oval,” Beck-Stein recalls the surreal shift that came when her first boss moved out of the White House.
“I’m now a stenographer in the Trump administration. Remember that pit of snakes in Indiana Jones? I work in that pit now,” she wrote in her book, in part an homage to Obama and her time working for him.
White House stenographers were constantly armed with a pair of recorders and a microphone at all times. They would let them run “until the last reporter had left the room, just in case a reporter yelled a question over his shoulder with one foot out the door.”
The Monday after Trump’s inauguration, Dorey-Stein realized it would not just be the ideology of the administration that changed, but that her job would too.
“Trump doesn’t like microphones near his face,” her colleague told her in frustration. She had just “tried to do her job the way stenographers had since Ronald Reagan,” the former White House Staffer recalled in the Times.
They were told “they don’t need stenographers or transcripts of interviews because ‘there’s video,’” Dorey-Stein writes in her memoir. “They don’t realize that print and radio interviews will not have video. They don’t realize a lot of things. After a few weeks they decide they do wants us, ‘But, like, only some of the time.’”
Dorey-Stein did not remain in the White House much longer, she dubbed her final weeks there “inherently stressful.”
When she recorded a Trump interview with Bill O’Reilly, she “watched with disbelief as the White House communications director Hope Hicks summoned Mr. O’Reilly to the Oval Office so he could speak with Mr. Trump privately.”
In her five years with Obama, Dorey-Stein said there was never a time when the President would have an off-the-record discussion with reporters during the workday.
“When a President spoke on-the-record with a reporter, they made sure to have a stenographer present so they could have an official White House transcript, just in case the reporter came out with an inaccurate quotation,” the former stenographer continued.
“But that was then, and this was the Trump era.”
A clear example of that, she noted, was the President’s joint press conference over the weekend with Prime Minister Theresa May, a day after he slammed May and her government in an interview with a London tabloid.
He dismissed the sit-down as “fake news” and called May a “fantastic woman” who is doing a “fantastic job.”
The President continued: “We record when we deal with reporters. We solve a lot of problems with the good ole recording instrument.”
That would definitely have been the case with any other President, Dorey-Stein noted, but not this one.
“Mr. Trump likes to call anyone who disagrees with him ‘fake news,’” she concluded. “But if he’s really the victim of inaccurate reporting, why is he so averse to having the facts recorded and transcribed? It’s clear the White House stenographers do not serve his administration, but rather his adversary: the truth.”