Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday played a trick on the media, pretending he was going to end the daily news conferences that he has used to pillory critics and dominate the national news cycle.
Taking advantage of Dec. 28, Day of the Holy Innocents, a celebration associated with practical jokes in Mexico, Lopez Obrador opened his news briefing by saying he would in future hold only one conference a week, at midday on Wednesdays.
Adopting a line in stark contrast to what he often argues, Lopez Obrador said with a straight face he had made the decision because the quality of public information was improving.
“The majority of the news media in the country are carrying out their duty professionally, there is accurate, real news, the media are objective,” he said.
However, around 40 minutes later he returned to a familiar refrain, referring to “conservative” media as “hypocrites” – then noted with a smile that he would, in fact, continue to hold his morning news conferences as his right to reply.
“Do you really think we’re not going to have the morning conferences? All the subsidized conservative press would be rubbing its hands,” he said, adding that most of the traditional print and broadcast media in the country were against him.
On social media, skepticism had greeted the president’s announcement that he was serious about ending the conferences.
Before he admitted it was a joke, many of Mexico’s main newspapers did not carry a story on the front of their websites about what would have been a major change in policy.
Since taking office two years ago, Lopez Obrador has used the conferences, which begin at 7 a.m. and can last over two hours, to set the political agenda and take critics to task.