Access denied. The White House blocked reporters from The New York Times, CNN and Politico from a press briefing on Friday, February 24, though representatives from conservative outlets were allowed in.
According to reporting from all three outlets, among others, staffers allowed in a handpicked number of journalists from outlets including Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, which all have conservative leanings. More mainstream outlets like ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Fox News were also allowed in. (The Los Angeles Times was also barred, according to KTLA.)
“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, 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.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the press corp, also released its own statement in response to the discriminatory decision. “The W.H.C.A. board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” Jeff Mason, the association’s president, said in a statement. “We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not. The board will be discussing this further with White House staff.”
Reporters from the Associated Press and Time magazine, who were allowed into the briefing, opted not to take part in the event in a show of solidarity for the snubbed outlets.
In a brief statement defending the decision, administration spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the White House “had the pool there so everyone would be represented and get an update from us today.”
Earlier in the day Friday, two senior administration officials attacked CNN for its story claiming that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had asked the FBI to deny reports about President Donald Trump’s associates having direct communications with Russian intelligence officials. According to The Hill, the officials told reporters, “What you guys have done is indefensible and inaccurate.”
The officials further accused CNN of mischaracterizing Priebus’ request to the FBI. The original CNN story reported that the White House had tried to quash reports about meetings between Trump’s associates and Russians, telling the FBI and other agencies to say there had been no contacts. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on Tuesday, February 14.
On Friday, however, the officials, who spoke anonymously, told CNN that it was not Priebus who initiated the conversation, but FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. According to CNN, when Priebus expressed his concern to McCabe that Priebus was “getting crushed” by the story, McCabe was the one who voluntarily told the Chief of Staff that the FBI would not comment on the reports.
FBI Director James Comey then allegedly called Priebus to echo McCabe’s sentiments that he believed the story to be inaccurate. “We didn’t try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth,” Spicer told CNN on Thursday, February 23.
President Trump himself has had an embattled relationship with the press. In a bizarre, unhinged press conference on Thursday, February 16, he slammed the “dishonest” media for reporting that his administration has been chaotic thus far. “I open the paper and I see stories of chaos,” he said. “It’s the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite not being able to get my cabinet approved.”
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