Several major U.S. media outlets including New York Times, CNN and Los Angeles Times were barred from attending Friday White House briefing, indicating an escalation in the relationship between the media and the young Trump administration.
Since he was sworn in on 20 January, Trump has been attacking the US media, deriding them as purveyors of ‘fake news’, ‘dishonest media’ and so on and had disputed several accounts published by the media.
Not trusting how they would treat his story, Trump last week addressed a rally in Florida.
Just today, Trump in Twitter posts blasted the FBI for not tracing the source of a leak of his administration’s links to Russia. The story was published by CNN on Thursday.
According to a report by Daily Beast, journalists have expressed outrage at today’s unusual move by the White House.
The Associated Press and Time magazine reportedly boycotted the briefing as a result of the ban of NYT and CNN.
White House spokesman, Spicer reportedly allowed sympathetic outlets into the gaggle—an informal question-and-answer session between a press secretary and journalists—including the Washington Times, Breitbart, all Republican and conservative organs and One America News Network.
Jeff Mason, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said the consortium of reporters will “strongly protest” the move and further discuss it with White House press staffers.
“This is an unacceptable development by the Trump White House,” CNN said in a statement.
“Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don’t like. We’ll keep reporting regardless.”
Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, issued a similar statement:
“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 organisations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.”
Earlier today, Trump had said he was not against the American media.
In a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Trump said in spite of his criticism of certain U.S. media organisations, he is not against the fourth estate of the realm.
“I’m not against the press; I don’t mind bad stories if I deserve them and I tell you, I love good stories, but we won’t. I don’t get too many of them.
“They are very dishonest people; in fact, in covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people – the fake news.
“They dropped off the word ‘fake’ and all of the sudden, the story became, the media is the enemy; they take the word ‘fake’ out, and now I’m saying, oh, no, this is no good. But that’s the way they are. So I’m not against the media.
“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake – phony, fake.
“A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people’ – and they are. They are the enemy of the people.
“Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said nine people have confirmed. There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people; nine people.
“And I said, give me a break because I know the people who they talked to; there were no nine people but they say, nine people, and somebody reads it and they think, ‘oh, nine people. They have nine sources’; they make up sources.”
The President claimed that he was only against the “fake news media or press” adding, media should disclose their sources.
“I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name; let their name be put out there.
“Let their name be put out. A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being; let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources.”
Trump, however, said there are very honourable media men writing very fair stories.
“There are some great reporters around. They’re talented, they’re as honest as the day is long. They’re great.
“But there are some terrible, dishonest people, and they do a tremendous disservice to our country and to our people; a tremendous disservice.
“They are very dishonest people, and they shouldn’t use sources; they should put the name of the person; you will see stories dry up like you’ve never seen before,” the president said.
Trump, who said most U.S. media got his election polls and subsequent polls since his inauguration wrongly, claimed that he “love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me; nobody, I mean, who uses it more than I do?”
“But the First Amendment gives all of us – it gives it to me, it gives it to you, it gives all Americans – the right to speak our minds freely; It gives you the right and me the right to criticise fake news, and criticise it strongly”.
*with reports by Prudence Arobani in New York