On Friday, the White House blocked several news outlets from attending an informal briefing even as President Donald Trump has continued to crusade against what he calls “fake news” and dishonest media.
CNN, the New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed were all banned by press secretary Sean Spicer from attending the “gaggle,” or non-televised meeting, and the news quickly spread as many were outraged over this apparent attack on free press.
However, the Trump administration insisted that the reporters it picked to be part of the briefing were not hand-picked only to include those who agree with the president. “We invited the pool so everyone was represented,” deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders wrote in an email. “We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool for an expanded pool. Nothing more than that.”
While the list included the likes of Fox News, Breitbart and the Washington Times, it also included outlets that are not considered to be as sympathetic to Trump, including CBS, NBC, ABC, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Time and the Associated Press. However, Time and AP said that they would not attend as a show of solidarity with those outlets that were banned.
Following the announcement, Jeff Mason, Reuters White House correspondent and board member for the White House Correspondent’s association, issued the following statement: “The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House. 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.”
National Press Club President Jeffrey Ballou also spoke out against the move, saying that it was “deeply disturbing and completely unacceptable that the White House is actively running a campaign against a constitutionally enshrined free and independent press … The action harks back to the darkest chapters of U.S. history and reeks of undemocratic, un-American and unconstitutional censorship.”