President-elect Donald Trump used his first press conference since July to rebuke specific news outlets for publishing reports on Tuesday regarding his campaign’s supposed dealings with Russia.
In a comment about BuzzFeed, which chose to publish the full unverified dossier of allegations, Trump called the media site “a failing pile of garbage.” Shortly afterward, CNN reporter Jim Acosta attempted to ask a question. Trump declined, calling the news network “fake news.”
“I felt it was only fair if our news organization was going to be attacked, we get to ask a follow-up question,” Acosta said after the press conference.
Acosta said that incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer told him if he ever “acted like that” again, he would be thrown out.
The president-elect’s reaction to these latest media reports follows Spicer’s rebuke to open the press conference.
“It’s frankly outrageous and highly responsible for a left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect’s campaign for publishing salacious and flat-out false information on the Internet just days before he takes the oath of office,” said Spicer from the lobby of Trump Tower. “According to BuzzFeed’s own editor, there are some serious reasons to doubt the allegations in the report. The executive editor of the New York Times also dismissed the report by saying it was ‘totally unsubstantiated,’ echoing the concerns that many other reporters expressed on the Internet. The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks. The report is not an intelligence report, plain and simple.”
The Republican National Committee communications director pointed specifically to the line in the report that Trump attorney Michael Cohen had met Kremlin officials in Prague in August. Spicer said Cohen’s passport shows he did not leave or enter the United States in the months of August and September, confirming a report from CNN Wednesday morning that said a government source had confirmed it was a different Michael Cohen who had visited Prague.
The Associated Press reports that only one seat was saved at the event, as a Republican staffer reserved a front row position for Breitbart, the conservative news organization formerly headed by Trump advisor Steve Bannon.
Asked to respond, BuzzFeed’s communications team told Yahoo News, “We stand by our decision to publish the dossier, and would point you to [editor-in-chief Ben Smith’s] email to BuzzFeed News staff about why we decided to publish.”
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) January 11, 2017
CNN published a story prior to the BuzzFeed story Tuesday stating that intelligence chiefs had briefed both Trump and President Obama about the claims of Russian attempts to compromise the president-elect. The CNN story did not contain the details of the allegations because the organization could not independently corroborate the specific allegations. Following the press conference, CNN issued a statement differentiating its reporting from BuzzFeed’s:
CNN’s decision to publish carefully sourced reporting about the operations of our government is vastly different than Buzzfeed’s decision to publish unsubstantiated memos. The Trump team knows this. They are using Buzzfeed’s decision to deflect from CNN’s reporting, which has been matched by other major news organizations. We are fully confident in our reporting. It represents the core of what the First Amendment protects, informing the people of the inner workings of their government; in this case, briefing materials prepared for President Obama and President-elect Trump last week. We made it clear that we were not publishing any of the details of the 35-page document because we have not corroborated the report’s allegations. Given that members of the Trump transition team have so vocally criticized out reporting, we encourage them to identify, specifically, what they believe to be inaccurate.
Following the publication of the report Tuesday night, many reporters remarked that the documents released by BuzzFeed had been circulating for months but there had been no way to verify their contents, which were reportedly written by a former British intelligence officer as part of an opposition research commissioned against Trump during the 2016 campaign.
In a brief interview in the Times newsroom on Tuesday evening, Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said the paper would not publish the document because the allegations were “totally unsubstantiated.”
“We, like others, investigated the allegations and haven’t corroborated them, and we felt we’re not in the business of publishing things we can’t stand by,” Baquet said.