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Trump White House Bars News Organizations From Press Briefing


February 25, 2017
Michael Calderone / The Huffington Post

The White House blocked several news outlets from attending a closed-door briefing Friday afternoon with press secretary Sean Spicer, a decision that drew strong rebukes from news organizations and may only heighten tensions between the press corps and the administration. The Alt-right Brietbart News was admitted but the New York Times was banned.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/white-house-bars-news-organizations_us_58b08a76e4b0a8a9b78213ae

Trump White House Bars News Organizations From Press Briefing
Michael Calderone / The Huffington Post

"Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties."
--
New York Times editor Dean Baquet

(February 24, 2017) -- The White House blocked several news outlets from attending a closed-door briefing Friday afternoon with press secretary Sean Spicer, a decision that drew strong rebukes from news organizations and may only heighten tensions between the press corps and the administration.

The New York Times and CNN, both of which have reported critically on the administration and are frequent targets of President Donald Trump, were prohibited from attending. The Huffington Post was also denied entry.

Both the Associated Press and Time magazine, which were allowed to enter, boycotted out of solidarity with those news organizations kept out.

Spicer said prior to the start of the administration that the White House may skip televised daily briefings in favor of an off-camera briefing or gaggle with reporters. But Spicer has continued doing televised daily briefings except when traveling, making Friday's decision an unusual one that led to frustration among journalists kept out.

"Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties," Times executive editor Dean Baquet said in a statement. "We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and the other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest."

Trump's presidential campaign blacklisted nearly a dozen outlets through part of the 2016 election. However, Spicer said in December the Trump White House would not kick news organizations out of the briefing room over critical coverage. During a panel discussion that month with Politico, he said you can't ban news organizations from the White House. "That's what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship."

CNN suggested in a statement the Trump White House was retaliating against certain news outlets over their coverage.

Politico editor-in-chief John Harris and editor Carrie Budoff Brown said in a memo to staff after also being excluded that the newsroom's management plans "to very vigorously assert and defend an independent media's right to cover the institution of the Presidency."

"Selectively excluding news organizations from White House briefings is misguided and our expectation is that this action will not be repeated," they wrote.

Jeff Mason, a Reuters correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents Association, said the organization's board "is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House."

"We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not," Mason said. "The board will be discussing this further with White House staff."

The gaggle included members of Friday's White House press pool, which is a rotating group of journalists covering the president's movements for the larger press corps. It also included journalists from major networks like NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News.

The White House also invited journalists from conservative outlets such as Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One American News Network, sparking concerns that the administration was playing favorites with certain politically aligned outlets.

"We had invited the pool so everyone was represented," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told HuffPost. "We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool. Nothing more than that."

Hours earlier, the president continued his attacks on the "fake news" media, which he dubbed an "enemy of the American people."

Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, said she was "deeply disturbed" by the White House's decision to bar HuffPost from the briefing and "heartened that other members of the White House Correspondents Association decided to protest the gaggle in solidarity."

"We hope that the White House will recognize the vital importance of including all credentialed media outlets when briefing reporters on matters of undeniable public interest," Polgreen said.

BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith also weighed in on his outlet being left out of the briefing. "While we strongly object to the White House's apparent attempt to punish news outlets whose coverage it does not like, we won't let these latest antics distract us from continuing to cover this administration fairly and aggressively," he said.‬

‬Though a reporter from the Wall Street Journal attended, the paper said later it would not do so again under such circumstances.

"The Wall Street Journal strongly objects to the White House's decision to bar certain media outlets from today's gaggle," a Journal spokesman said. "Had we known at the time, we would not have participated and we will not participate in such closed briefings in the future."



The Trump White House Is Against
Anonymous Sources, Except When It Isn't

Michael Calderone / The Huffington Post

(February 24, 2017) -- President Donald Trump accused the media Friday of making up sources in stories critical of his administration, and said the practice of granting anonymity, used by virtually all reputable news organizations, should end.

"I'm against the people that make up stories and make up sources," Trump told a cheering crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be put out there."

It's one thing for a White House to push back on a story by suggesting a reporter's sources are misinformed or lying, as past administrations might have done. It's much more serious, and reckless, to claim that a reporter is fabricating sources to intentionally mislead the public -- a grave offense in journalism that usually marks the end of a reporter's career.

Trump's remarks, coming a week after he declared the media the "enemy of the American people," are a continuation of the White House's efforts to delegitimize the press. The remarks are also hypocritical, given Trump's own tendency to attribute wild claims to unnamed sources.

During the presidential campaign, Trump claimed on Fox News to have "very credible" sources backing up bogus crime statistics he'd tweeted out to millions of followers. He once said on MSNBC that "five different sources" supported his claim that the Mexican government was sending "rapists" to the US. He said on ABC News that a "very good source" told him then-President Barack Obama wanted to accept 200,000 Syrian refugees.

And before he entered the 2016 presidential race, Trump cited anonymous sources to fuel the bogus claim that Obama wasn't born in the United States, and to attack New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as his office sued Trump University for fraud.

Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that ‪@BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.
1:23 PM - 6 Aug 2012

Donald J. Trump ✔
‪@realDonaldTrump Sources inside ‪@AGSchneiderman's office are saying that they are very concerned with the allegations against their lightweight boss.
10:41 AM - 13 Dec 2013


Meanwhile, Trump's White House has tried to use anonymity to push back against critical coverage, even as the president condemns the use of anonymity in critical coverage.

CNN reported Thursday night that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had asked FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe to rebut an explosive New York Times report about how Trump campaign officials repeatedly communicated with Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign.

The White House responded to the CNN report Friday in a background briefing, meaning that reporters could only attribute information to "senior intelligence officials."

The officials claimed that McCabe had told Priebus the Times story was "bullshit," and the chief of staff asked about how the agency could push back. McCabe told Priebus the FBI couldn't comment on the ongoing investigation, and Priebus asked if the agency could cite "'senior intelligence officials' as saying there's nothing to the NYT story," according to officials who spoke at the briefing Friday. FBI director James Comey told Priebus they couldn't do that.

Four days after Priebus suggested the FBI push back on the Times story using anonymous sources -- that is, "senior intelligence officials" -- he criticized the news media for relying on anonymous sources.

"I think that the media should stop with this unnamed source stuff, put names on a piece of paper and print it," Priebus said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "If people aren't willing to put their name next to a quote, then the quote shouldn't be listed, period."

In an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Priebus griped that mainstream news outlets were acting like "Washington daily gossip magazines" because of their reliance on anonymous sources.

Priebus said a Wall Street Journal story about how intelligence officials have kept some sensitive materials from Trump was "untrue." He said officials in the "top levels of the intelligence community" had told him the Times' story on Russia and the Trump campaign was "complete garbage."

When asked who his sources were, Priebus demurred. "I'm not going to tell you," he said. "I can't tell you that."

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Reince," host Chris Wallace responded. "You just complained about unnamed sources -- you are using an unnamed source."

"Well, because I didn't ask for approval to use their name," Priebus said. "But I will tell you this -- when I say top-level people, I mean top-level people, OK?"

Although Priebus and Trump claim the media should only publish stories using named sources, the kinds of pieces they've been particularly bothered by -- stories about intelligence or ongoing investigations -- are generally the type where reporters can only get important information by granting their sources anonymity.

On Friday, Trump attacked a story that he said featured nine sources, telling the CPAC crowd that he doesn't "believe there were one or two people."

"There were no nine people," he said. "But they say nine people and somebody reads it and they think, 'Oh, nine people, they have nine sources.' They make up sources."

Trump didn't specifically mention The Washington Post, but the paper recently ran a scoop about now-former national security adviser Michael Flynn communicating with Russia about sanctions before Trump's inauguration. That story, the Post noted, was based on information from "nine current and former officials."

Washington Post editor Marty Baron evidently interpreted Trump's remarks as a swipe at the paper. "Everything we published regarding Gen. Flynn was true, as confirmed by subsequent events and on-the-record statements from administration officials themselves," he said in a statement Friday. "Calling press reports fake doesn't make them so."

The Post relied on anonymous sources to set the record straight after Vice President Mike Pence said Flynn hadn't discussed sanctions with Russia -- a claim that Pence made on television after being misled by the national security adviser.

While the Trump White House learned in late January that Flynn may have misled Pence, the vice president himself only found out a couple weeks later by reading about it in The Washington Post.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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