White House press secretary Sean Spicer held a press gaggle on Friday instead of his daily press briefing, but excluded several news sources — most of whom President Donald Trump has accused of publishing "fake news" stories — from attending.
CNN, reported that it was blocked from attending the gaggle, along with The New York Times, Politico, Buzzfeed, and the majority of the members of the foreign press that attend Spicer's daily briefings.
The exclusions came after Trump delivered a blistering attack toward the media during his speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, during which he doubled down on his comments that "fake news" is the "enemy of the American people."
"I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It's fake, phony, fake," Trump told the conference. "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."
Trump also condemned the use of anonymous sources in news reporting, claiming media outlets that use such sources are using them to make up their own news, and vowed to "do something about it."
Trump also said that "there are some great reporters, powerful honest, but there are some dishonest people, who do a tremendous disservice [to Americans], and while he would not name names, he alluded to CNN, calling it the "Clinton News Network."
"Take a look at their polls over the past two years," he said. "You would think they would fire the pollster, maybe they're not good at polling, but maybe they are not legit . . . It creates this false narrative."
Soon after the speech, the White House canceled its open press event, instead holding the off-camera gaggle in Spicer's office, reports Politico, one of the news outlets that was excluded.
Spicer's staff did allow in CBS, which is Friday's pool network, along with ABC, NBC, and Fox. Reporters from Breitbart News, The Washington Times, and One America News Network also attended, reports CNN. The Associated Press and Time, while allowed to attend the gaggle, chose to boycott it instead.
The White House has not yet explained why the news organizations were blocked from attending the reporters' gaggle. However, the exclusions came a day after reports surfaced that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had asked a high-ranking FBI official to refute a New York Times article concerning connections between Trump campaign staff and Russian intelligence agents during the 2016 campaign.
Trump Friday morning attacked the FBI on Twitter for not discovering the sources of leaks to the media.
"Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties," Dean Baquet, the 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, which represents the press corps, also rebuked the exclusions.
"The W.H.C.A. board is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House," the association president, Jeff Mason, said in a statement, reports the Times. "We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not. The board will be discussing this further with White House staff."
New York Times reporter Peter Baker tweeted that he'd never seen a press secretary take such action, and thanked the news organizations that boycotted Spicer's behind-doors meeting:
Glenn Thrush, a New York Times reporter who attends most of Spicer's daily press briefings, speculated on Twitter that there could have been many reasons for the exclusions, including an attempt to "sow internal strife."
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