White House Press Corps Moves to Temporary Digs

The rundown press room at the White House is getting a makeover. The last official briefing before a renovation begins was held Wednesday.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And while President Bush is in Crawford, the White House is beginning a big renovation project. The workspace and briefing room for reporters is going to be gutted. The correspondents are moving next door for the interim, but some wonder if they'll ever get back inside.

NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

At the last briefing in the old space, yesterday, Presidential Spokesman Tony Snow found it necessary to make a promise.

Mr. TONY SNOW (Presidential Spokesman): There will indeed be a new pressroom. It will be right here. It's not going to be in a distant part of town. It'll be right here in this very spot, and the carpets will be clean, the connections will be up-to-date, and it will be a more congenial and helpful work environment for all.

GREENE: As usual, veteran reporter Helen Thomas asked Snow the key question about the new digs. Whether there will be:

Ms. HELEN THOMAS (Veteran Reporter): Better answers?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SNOW: In response to better questions.

GREENE: As if to reassure everyone, Snow brought on a couple of special guests.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: So, anyway, Laura and I wanted to come by and wish you all the best as you get to move headquarters for a while. Look forward to welcoming you back here in, I guess, six or seven months. Is that right?

REPORTERS: Nine.

President BUSH: Nine months?

Mr. KEN HERMAN(Reporter, Cox Newspapers): So you're saying no timetable, Mr. President?

(Soundbite of laughter)

President BUSH: That's what you get when you bring a crackpot up from Texas.

GREENE: The president was referring to Ken Herman from Cox Newspapers - the wag with the line about timetables. There were also some alumni in the room yesterday, including:

Mr. SAM DONALDSON (Reporter, ABC News): Mr. President, should Mel Gibson be forgiven…

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: A familiar voice from ABC News.

President BUSH: Is that Sam Donaldson? Forget it, you're a has-been. We don't have to answer has-been's questions.

GREENE: Before leaving, the president offered a glimmer of hope.

President BUSH: It looks a little crowded in here. And so, you want to double the size?

REPORTERS: Yes.

President BUSH: Forget it. You get to work like the rest of us. We may have some air conditioning if we decide to. Anyway, good luck in the new building. Looking forward to seeing you over there.

GREENE: And with that an era came to a close. David Greene, NPR News, Washington.

DON GONYEA, host:

And, Renee, if I might just quickly add, I've worked out of that White House briefing room for almost six years now. The place has its charms, but I shudder to think what they're going to find when they pull up that carpeting, it looks like it's been there since the Nixon era.

MONTAGNE: Gosh, Don, who knew we were saving you from all of that when you came to work here in our MORNING EDITION studio? But it's been a pleasure having you.

GONYEA: I've enjoyed it a great deal, thanks.

MONTAGNE: Steve is back with us next Monday. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

GONYEA: And I'm Don Gonyea.

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