White House Denies Briefing Access to New York Times, Politico, CNN

  • President, top aides have intensified conflict with news media
  • Trump criticized anonymous sources after anonymous briefing

An empty podium is seen as an off-camera briefing is held with a small group of reporters and White House press secretary Sean Spicer instead of the normal on-camera briefing at the White House on Feb. 24, 2017, in Washington.

Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

White House press secretary Sean Spicer excluded several major news outlets, including the New York Times and CNN, from an untelevised media briefing on Friday, hours after President Donald Trump assailed coverage of his administration.

The White House invited members of the press pool to attend the briefing, including representatives from the Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg News, Agence France-Presse and Hearst, which is serving as the daily representative for newspaper outlets. The White House then handpicked additional outlets to participate, including NBC News, CBS News and ABC News -- as well as conservative outlets like the Washington Times, America One and Breitbart News Network.

Reporters wait for access to an off camera briefing with Sean Spicer on Feb. 24.

Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Notably excluded were the New York Times, CNN, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed News and the BBC. Bloomberg News only learned that some outlets had been excluded moments before the briefing began. The Associated Press was invited but declined to participate, citing the exclusion of other organizations.

The White House Correspondents Association board “is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” the organization’s president, Jeff Mason of Reuters, said in a statement. “The board will be discussing this further with White House staff.”

Bloomberg Editor in Chief John Micklethwait said in a statement: "I don’t believe that the White House’s decision to exclude major news organizations is in the best interest of keeping the public informed, so in the future we will not participate in exclusionary briefings of the sort that happened today."

‘Dishonest Media’

Trump and his White House on Friday intensified their conflict with the news media that cover them. Two senior administration officials held an anonymous briefing in the morning, seeking to debunk a CNN report, citing anonymous sources, that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had inappropriately discussed with the FBI an investigation of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials.

About two hours later, Trump repeated familiar complaints about the “dishonest media” with a new twist: saying without evidence that news organizations fabricate sources for stories.

“I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources,” Trump said to cheers at the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Maryland. “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out. A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being. Let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources.”

Later he also tweeted: "FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. A great danger to our country. The failing @nytimes has become a joke. Likewise @CNN. Sad!"

Spicer holds a televised news briefing on most weekdays when the president isn’t traveling, but on Thursday evening, when it issued its daily guidance, the White House said Spicer would instead “gaggle” on Friday. The term is jargon for less formal briefings, usually held in Spicer’s office or aboard Air Force One, that aren’t televised.

‘Above and Beyond’

Spicer said he held a gaggle on Friday because Trump had spoken earlier in the day.

“We’ve gone above and beyond” making the White House accessible to the media, he said. “We do what we can to accommodate the press.”

Shortly before the gaggle, the White House asked news organizations to register for an “expanded pool” of reporters that would be admitted to cover it. The group granted access included all of the members of the so-called “protective pool” of journalists that routinely covers the president’s activities, including Bloomberg.

The New York Times and other outlets were turned away at the door to Spicer’s office.

“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said in a statement. “We strongly protest the exclusion of the New York Times and the other news organizations.”

On Saturday, Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, held an event in front of the New York Times’s office to denounce the exclusions.

“We are calling upon the White House to restore press access, we are calling upon the White House to commit to a policy of press access,” she said in an interview. “There is no democracy without freedom of the press. It’s more important now than ever.”

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