In an unprecedented move, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last Friday, barred “journalists from the New York Times, CNN, Politico and BuzzFeed—which have been criticized by President Donald Trump and his administration for their reporting—from [an off-camera press briefing]. Reporters from the Associated Press and Time Magazine boycotted the event in protest,” The Wall Street Journal reported (Feb. 24).
The BBC, and Huffington Post were also shut out of the meeting.
In a statement, editors said: “The Wall Street Journal strongly objects to the White House’s decision to bar certain media outlets from today’s [off-camera] gaggle. Had we known at the time, we would not have participated and we will not participate in such restricted briefings in the future.”
“ ‘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. ‘Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.’ ”
In a shameless attempt at rationalization, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, “We invited the pool, so everyone was represented. We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool. Nothing more than that.”
One week earlier, President Trump tweeted:
“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @NYTimes, @NBC News, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, 24, President Trump, continued his assault on the media:
“ ‘I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake. They have a professional obligation as members of the press to report honestly. But as you saw throughout the entire campaign, and even now, the fake news doesn’t tell the truth.”
The Times went on to correct many of the statements Mr. Trump made in front of the Republican audience.
Later in his speech, Trump said, “Nobody loves the First Amendment better than me. No one uses it more than I do. It gives me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.”
Trump is referring to the recent story first reported by CNN that the FBI refused a request by the White House “to knock down recent Trump-Russia Stories.”
More on this issue Wednesday, but clearly President Trump’s pattern is to call anything he doesn’t like or agree with “fake,” or “phony,” and just as clearly he does not understand the meaning behind the text of the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”
There’s a reason why freedom of the press is part of the First Amendment. It’s there to hold those in powerful positions accountable for everything they say and do. Period. Full Stop.
Last June, candidate Trump banned Washington Post reporters from covering his campaign.
“Based on the incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting of the record setting Trump campaign,” Trump said on Facebook, “we are hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post.”
The Post’s Executive Editor Martin Baron responded to last Friday’s ban of reporters:
“It’s appalling that the White House would exclude news outlets like the New York Times, CNN, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, and BuzzFeed from its publicly announced briefings. This is an undemocratic path that the administration is traveling. There is nothing to be gained from the White House restricting the public’s access to information. We are currently evaluating what our response will be if this sort of thing happens again.”
Last December, in an exchange with Politico reporter Jake Sherman, Spicer responded to the question of banning the press this way:
“I think we have a respect for the press when it comes to the government. That is something you can’t ban an entity from.”
“Conservative, liberal or otherwise,” Spicer added, “that’s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship. I think there is a vastly different model when it comes to government and what should be expected, and that’s on both sides.”
“Nobody loves the First Amendment better than me,” Trump said.
I can think of at least 65,844,610 – a majority of the electorate – who do.
Wednesday: the real issue behind all the smoke and mirrors.