For his first press conference since the election, I'd give President-elect Donald Trump a B+.
For the most part, I have to say, he is starting to sound presidential.
Sure, he lost a few points in the presidential department after a heated exchange with reporters from Buzzfeed and CNN where he called CNN "fake news" and Buzzfeed a "failing pile of garbage."
However, when you look at his performance in the rest of the debate, he stayed on message, deflected the hard questions with a logical stance, and wisely brought in third parties to lend credibility to controversial issues involving conflict-of-interest concerns.
Everyone was listening to see how Trump would respond to the most salacious allegations that Russia had titillating dirt and video on him. Trump knew it would be the first and hardest question out of the gate, and he didn't allow his emotions to overrule his thoughts when approaching the topic.
Trump handled the Russian allegations in a professional and presidential tone. He explained candidly that he couldn't elaborate on classified briefings. It enabled him to evade the tough question on whether the U.S. intelligence community briefed him over Russia allegedly having compromising video and financial documents on him. Issue resolved. Sure, he didn't answer the question, but most Americans understand why classified details shouldn't be shared in a press conference.
When you want to change the angle of any news story, you redirect it with a better question or topic – and that's what Trump did next. He redirected the alleged Russian blackmail story with the accusations against BuzzFeed and CNN.
That exchange may have gotten a little intense but Trump softened his image with some humor. In response to allegations of Trump engaging in salacious behavior with prostitutes in Moscow, Trump called himself a "germaphobe." It brought laughter to the room and made you think – eh, it's plausible.
Trump's first press conference was full of wide-ranging topics and he transitioned to the questions seamlessly. From a PR perspective – Trump brilliantly packed the room with supporters who clapped like it was a popularity contest. The media wasn't swayed by the overt support, but viewers listening at home on the later newscast might be.
Few reporters were able to stump Trump as well. When one reporter tried to corner him into admitting that the U.S. was now paying for the wall, contrary to his campaign promises, Trump answered matter of factly with logic: he wants to get the wall built quickly, so he's not going to wait a year and a half for funding. He will start on it now and get Mexico to reimburse it later.
Trump finished his press conference relatively unscathed and that's why I'm giving him a B+. Journalists have waited months for this opportunity to grill him on a wide-ranging series of topics. He answered their questions with logic and used his new pulpit to push his message. When you can walk away from a press conference with the world's toughest journalists, you've succeeded if you walk away without bruises.
And that's what Trump did.