White House bars major media channels, escalates war
Washington : The White House ramped up its war against the press by barring multiple "anti-Trump" media outlets -- The New York Times, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, BBC, BuzzFeed News, Politico, The Huffington Post and The Guardian -- from a briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Hours before Spicer's briefing at the White House on Friday, President Trump launched a scathing attack on journalists by calling them "enemy of the people".
The press secretary, during his briefing, said that the White House would relentlessly counter coverage it considered inaccurate. "We're just not going to sit back and let, you know, false narratives, false stories, inaccurate facts get out there," he said, according to reports.
In a brief statement defending the move, administration spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the White House "had the pool there so everyone would be represented and get an update from us today".
Conservative media organisations like Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One America News Network were allowed to attend the conference. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Fox News also attended.
However, reporters from The Associated Press and Time magazine chose not to attend the briefing in protest of the White House's actions. The Washington Post did not send a reporter to the session. The Post added the slogan "Democracy dies in darkness" below its online masthead for this week.
"Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties," said Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times.
"We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and the other news organisations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest," it said.
In a statement, CNN called the incident "an unacceptable development by the Trump White House. Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don't like."
The White House move was called "appalling" by the Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron, who said the Trump administration is on "an undemocratic path".
Paul Danahar, the BBC's bureau chief in Washington, said the corporation has a representative at every daily White House briefing and it was not clear why it was barred from Friday's session.
Politico editor-in-chief John Harris said that "selectively excluding news organizations from White House briefings is misguided."
Bret Baier, chief political anchor at Fox News tweeted: "Some at CNN & NYT stood w/FOX News when the Obama admin attacked us & tried 2 exclude us-a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed org".
The Wall Street Journal objected to the move and said that if it had known that others were being excluded, it would not have attended the briefing.
A Bloomberg reporter said on Twitter that she was allowed in because she was part of the pool, and that the outlet, along with many other reporters, shared an audio recording of the meeting with other news organisations.
Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, said that the move to exclude his site and others from the briefing was clearly "the White House's apparent attempt to punish news outlets whose coverage it does not like".
The White House Correspondents' Association, which represents the press corps, also protested the decision.
In a speech earlier in the day at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump criticised as "fake news" organisations that publish anonymously sourced reports that reflect poorly on him.
The President also berated members of his own Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as "leakers" who he said were putting the nation at risk, the New York Times reported.
Trump's barrage against the news media continued well into Friday night. "FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn't tell the truth," he wrote on Twitter, singling out The Times and CNN. "A great danger to our country."
Trump repeated his assertion that the "fake" news is the "enemy of the American people" during the conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Centre, just south of Washington.
"It doesn't and never will represent the people, and we're going to do something about it," he said.