'A great danger' - Trump continues attack on media after excluding New York Times, CNN, LA Times from White House press briefing
Donald Trump followed up his attack on the media at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) by branding it “a great danger to the country” on social media.
After a number of major news organisations including CNN, the BBC, the The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times were barred from a White House press briefing, the President took to Twitter to lambast the media again.
He said that “fake news media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth” and that news organisations like CNN and the “failing” New York Times had become a “joke” in a tweet.
It comes just hours after White House Press Secretary prevented some outlets from attending an off camera press briefing.
Other more conservative outlets, such as Breitbart, OANN, Fox News and the Washington Times, were allowed into the “gaggle” – an informal briefing usually attended by one reporter from each organisation – as well as more mainstream outlets such as Reuters, Bloomberg and NBC News.
The Associated Press and Time magazine were invited to join the briefing but boycotted it to protest the White House’s decision to exclude organisations with unfavourable coverage.
The move was condemned by Fox News anchor Bret Baier, even though the network has enthusiastically supported Mr Trump in the past.
He said his colleagues should not celebrate the ban as CNN and The New York Times were two of several media outlets which stood by them when Barack Obama tried to freeze them out in 2009.
The comments follow a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland where Mr Trump called the press, “enemies of the people”.
He claimed they were inventing damaging stories about him and his administration.
“A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people’, and they are," he said. "They are the enemy of the people”, he said. “Because they have no sources. They just make them up where there are none.”
He insisted that he did not object to critical reporting but claimed he was the victim of constant misreporting.
He said: “I’m not against the media, 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 don’t get too many of them.
“But I’m only against the fake news media or press. Fake. Fake… I’m against the people who make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name.”
Mr Trump has repeatedly attacked CNN for revealing the existence of an intelligence report which suggested Russia may have damaging information about Mr Trump’s private life which could be used to blackmail him.
In a press conference held later that day Mr Trump shouted at the CNN reporter, Jim Acosta, and refused to take a question from him saying “your organisation is terrible”.
When Mr Acosta attempted to challenge him he told him to not “be rude” and said “I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!”.
Off-camera gaggles are not unusual. The White House often invites handpicked outlets in for briefings, typically for specific topics. But briefings and gaggles in the White House are usually open to all outlets and they are free to ask anything.
A pool reporter from Hearst Newspapers was included in the gaggle on Friday and gave full details to the entire press corps. Media outlets allowed into the gaggle also shared their audio with others.
Spicer's decision drew a sharp response from some of the media outlets that were excluded.
"Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties," Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, 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."
The White House Correspondents Association, or WHCA, also protested.
"The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House," said Jeff Mason, president of the association and a Reuters reporter.
During the election campaign last year, Trump's team banned a few news organizations, including The Washington Post and BuzzFeed, from covering his campaign rallies for a period of time to protest their coverage.
CNN posted a Twitter message on Friday afternoon saying: "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.”
Ben Smith, 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."
On Friday, Spicer said the White House plans to fight against what it says is unfair coverage.
"I think we’re going to aggressively push back," he said. "We’re just not going to sit back and let false narratives, false stories, inaccurate facts get out there."
Additional reporting by Reuters
Independent News Service