White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer drew the ire of the Washington press corps on Friday after he held a gaggle with reporters and prohibited the New York Times and CNN from attending.
The White House did not hold a formal briefing today because of President Trump’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. However, Spicer held a gaggle with members of the pool (a representative of the television, radio, newspaper, and wire reporters when access is limited) and several other members of the press in his office. CNN and the Times were not allowed to attend even when they tried and some news outlets boycotted the gaggle in response. Outlets not invited also include the Los Angeles Times, Politico, and BuzzFeed.
The exclusion issue was raised in the gaggle when a reporter asked, “Are CNN and The New York Times not in here right now because you’re unhappy with their reporting? And why are they not in here?”
Spicer responded by saying, “Because we had a pool and then we expanded it, and we added some folks to come and cover it.”
The reporter followed up, “But there’s enough room for others in here.”
Spicer, “It was my decision to decide — you know, to expand the pool. Yeah.”
Spicer handpicked the participants and they included four of the five major television news networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox News. CNN was the only exception.
Conservative media outlets favorable to the President were also included. Those outlets were Breitbart News, the Washington Times and One America News Network.
CNN said in a statement, “This is an unacceptable development by the Trump White House.” “Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don’t like. We’ll keep reporting regardless.”
The New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet responded to the development by saying, “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties. 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 editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News said in a statement, “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.”
“The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” the White House Correspondents Association 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 were irked by the move over concerns of a precedent being set and fears of the White House selectively giving access to favorable news outlets.