UPDATED throughout with responses from various media outlets: Shortly after President Donald Trump vowed to “do something” about the “cunning” media who he’s called “the enemy” of the American people, CNN announced on air it, and other members of the press, had been barred from today’s White House briefing.
CNN reports The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Politico also were told they were not on the White House list for today’s off-camera briefing. The Washington Post reports it did not have a reporter present, at the time.
The New York Times also reported that it, CNN and Politico were not allowed to enter White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s office, calling it “an unsual breach of protocol.”
Breitbart, Fox News, Washington Times, and One America News Network were among those given entry, CNN reported.
“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” NYT executive editor Dean Baquet said in a statement.
“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.”
Fox News’s Shep Smith talked about the barring of CNN from the gaggle, and Trump’s repeated reference to that network as “fake news”:
“For the report, ‘fake news’ refers to stories that are created, often by entities pretended to be news organizations, solely to draw clicks and views and and based on nothing of substance,” Smith said on the air. “In short, fake news is made-up nonsense delivered for financial gain. CNN’s reporting was not fake news.”
FNC’s Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts reported on air that the network is joining in complaints about the incident that have been logged both by the White House Correspondents Association and by the TV network pool.
Fox News Channel host Bret Baier, however, insisted this was not a first, tweeting “some at CNN & NYT stood w/Fox News when the Obama admin attacked us & tried 2 exclude us.”
And, Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary for George W. Bush, recommended the media stop hyperventilating. He called today’s move an unwise move for the White House press secretary, but reminded that presidents “self-select” media with whom to meet. Baquet may be correct in saying it has never been done before by a press secretary, but it has often been done by POTUS from both parties, Fleischer insisted on CNN. White House press corps should be thanking Trump, he suggested, because he has made them interesting again.
Today’s off-camera gaggle is distinct from the formal on-camera White House Press Briefing, held in the White House’s official briefing room and led by Spicer, which is not scheduled to take place today. It is not unusual to forego the on-camera press briefing on days when POTUS delivers a major speech, as happened this morning at CPAC.
CNN reports it was told by Spicer that the briefing was intended as a much smaller pool-coverage gathering, which typically means one print reporter, one radio reporter, etc. Spicer said he decided to expand the list of invitees as he saw fit, to include conservative-leaning news organizations; Spicer told CNN the intent was not to exclude certain news orgs, the cable news outlet reported.
But CNN reports it is the only major television network blocked from briefing.
“This is an unacceptable development by the Trump White House,” CNN said this afternoon in a statement. “Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don’t like.
“We’ll keep reporting regardless.”
The White House Correspondents Association has protested today’s move, and some organizations, including Associated Press and Time magazine, have said they are boycotting, though it’s unclear if they were on the Trump Administrations list of the Invited.
Shortly before news of the briefing broke, Trump promised his administration is going to “do something about” the press, telling CPAC attendees he wants to bar use of unnamed sources.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name,’ Trump told an enthusiastic crowd of conservatives at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference gathering outside Washington, D.C.
In attacking the press, Trump was making good on a pledge made at CPAC one day earlier by his chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had promised the relationship between Trump and the media is “not only not going to get better, it’s going to get worse — every day.”
“[The press] are corporatist globalist media that are adamantly opposed to a economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has,” the former Breitbart chief said, and Trump parroted one day later.
“He’s going to continue to press his agenda. And, as economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they’re going to continue to fight,” said Bannon, referring to the media as “The Opposition Party.”
Erik Pederson contributed to this report.