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Story highlights

Steve Bannon said "Sean got fatter" in explaining the lack of on-camera White House briefings

Chelsea Clinton did not take the Bannon text as a joke

(CNN) —  

The punchline, for lack of a better word, in a piece in The Atlantic on the much-maligned decay of the White House press is a text message, presumably joking, from White House adviser Steven Bannon to a reporter explaining why Sean Spicer has spent less and less time in front of cameras at the podium.

“Sean got fatter,” texted Bannon.

We don’t KNOW that Bannon was joking, mind you. He didn’t respond to follow-up questions, according to writer Rosie Gray in The Atlantic piece. But treating the question as a joke would be in line with how the Trump administration has generally regarded the press briefings, which have been rarer and rarer and not often in front of cameras. There was one scheduled late Tuesday morning for later in the day.

Chelsea Clinton, the former first daughter whose mother was defeated last November by President Donald Trump, did not take the Bannon text as a joke.

“The White House using fat shaming to justify increased opacity. 2017,” she tweeted.

Later, she responded to a reporter from Breitbart, the conservative news site once run by Bannon.

“Oh ok. So using fat shaming to avoid answering questions about increasing opacity. Got it. 2017.”

She also responded to another tweeter who accused her of a “PR-Managed response from the humor-imparied left.”

Actually, Clinton wrote back, “Just me as I was standing in line @ Starbucks earlier. Fat shaming isn’t a joke I find funny. Ever.”

There you have it. Here’s what we’ve learned:

  1. Conservatives think Bannon was joking.
  2. That’s in line with how the White House has treated the press briefing
  3. Chelsea Clinton disagrees and thinks it is fat shaming.
  4. She also disagrees with the decay of the White House press briefing because it leads to “opacity” and allows the White House to refuse to answer questions.
  5. She stands in line and tweets at Starbucks like everyone else.

We can presume that Clinton’s tweets won’t do much to help Spicer, who is either stepping into a higher role at the White House or on thin ice (or both), depending on who you’re listening to.

Trump was apparently none too pleased earlier this year when Spicer was portrayed on “Saturday Night Live” by Melissa McCarthy, a sketch so successful it was stretched across the show’s entire season.

But it is also true that Trump has suggested the briefing is not a good fit for his White House since his spokesman can’t be expected to keep up with his thinking. And he has consistently undercut things both Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders have said from the podium.

That doesn’t mean the White House should stop doing the briefing, although journalists like CNN’s Jim Acosta have raised serious alarm bells about that possibility.

Chelsea Clinton, for her part, has come to the defense of Trump White House officials before, when it serves her purpose.

Back in March, she called comments by Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond about a photo featuring Kellyanne Conway taking a picture in the Oval Office “despicable” and demanded an apology for Conway.

Cedric later apologized, although he denied he was joking in the first place.

Twitter trolling the Trump White House and general wrongness she sees on social media has increasingly become one of Clinton’s self-appointed roles.

As CNN’s Hunter Schwarz wrote earlier this year:

“Perhaps the Clinton most effective at Twitter trolling, though, is Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea. Employing Internet colloquialisms, like linking to the latest Trump controversy while referencing how early it is (as if to say, “Trump has already ruined X, Y, and Z, and it’s only Monday”), @ChelseaClinton benefits from being conversational. Her feed is more typical liberal millennial than her scripted political family members.”

In this case, she was able to troll the White House for its lack of transparency and call out “fat shaming” in the same tweet.