Call for press aide Sanders to be fired after she 'was caught in lie after lie'
Reporters have long approached White House press secretary Sarah Sanders with a trust-but-verify attitude, knowing full well that Ms Sanders is tasked with spinning some of the more un-spinnable statements made by her boss, US President Donald Trump.
But with the publication of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, Ms Sanders's credibility among the people who cover her has been stretched about as taut as a violin string.
One White House reporter, April Ryan, has openly called for Ms Sanders to be fired.
While others don't go that far, they acknowledge that Ms Sanders's public statements have damaged her, perhaps permanently, as the president's spokeswoman.
In conversations with reporters, it's not unusual to hear her compared unfavourably to Ron Ziegler, former president Richard Nixon's press secretary, whose reputation was shredded by the Watergate scandal.
Ms Sanders admitted under oath to Mr Mueller's investigators that she made a series of false statements to the press after Mr Trump fired FBI director James Comey in May 2017. Ms Sanders told Mr Mueller that her comment that "countless" FBI employees had told her they supported the president's decision was "a slip of the tongue". She also said a second utterance - in which she asserted that Trump and "the rest of the FBI" had lost confidence in Mr Comey - was made "in the heat of the moment". Mr Mueller's report concluded her comments were "not founded on anything".
Given that she made the erroneous statements on two separate occasions, her explanations for them raised the possibility that she not only lied, but lied in explaining why she lied.
"I hope and trust that she understands why this is a big deal and why it matters to us and to her," said Peter Baker, the veteran 'New York Times' White House reporter. "A press secretary's most important asset is credibility. If you don't have that, there's not much point. But we all make mistakes. The test is what you do about it to make things better."
Ms Sanders hasn't offered an apology or a public correction. Instead, she has gone on the offensive. After repeating the "heat of the moment" excuse during an interview on 'Good Morning America', she fired back: "I'm sorry that I wasn't a robot like the Democrat Party that went out for two-and-a-half years and repeated time and time again that there was definitely Russian collusion between the president and his campaign."
Ms Ryan, a CNN political analyst who covers the White House for American Urban Radio Networks, was having none of that. "She has acknowledged that she lied under oath. You can't trust her. End of story.
"She's been caught in lie after lie. It's beyond spin. She speaks for the president, so it's life and death. In any other job, if someone acknowledged they lied under oath, they'd be gone. They'd be terminated." (© Washington Post)