President Donald Trump drew loud cheers as he denounced the news media at a gathering of conservative activists on Friday outside Washington, as the White House scrapped with reporters over a stories related to Russia in the morning, and then barred certain news organizations from an afternoon briefing with the Press Secretary.
“A few days ago, I called the fake news the “enemy of the people,” and they are, they are the enemy of the people,” the President said at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“I’m against the people that make up stories make up sources,” as Mr. Trump said that reporters should not be allowed to do stories that use anonymous sources.
The day began with the White House disputing press reports that raised questions about contacts between top White House officials and the FBI, over reports of investigations by the feds of links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, a topic that has routinely aggravated Mr. Trump and his aides.
“Major pushback on FBI-White House story,” read the White House Pool report by Dan Freedman of Hearst Newspapers:
“What you guys have done is indefensible and inaccurate,” said Press Secretary Sean Spicer in a tone that was described as being heated.
“What sane person would not want to set the record straight?” Spicer asked in a morning gaggle that was not on camera.
Originally, the Friday press briefing at the White House had been scheduled for 1:30 pm in the White House Briefing Room – but it was subsequently changed to an “off-camera” gathering in Spicer’s office.
But – it was invitation only – and left many reporters on the outside.
Inside, Spicer defended the decision.
“We want to make sure we answer your questions, but we don’t need to be on camera every day,” he told reporters.
Among the organizations not allowed in to his afternoon gaggle were CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Politico and others – while news media seen more favorable to the Trump White House were in attendance, like Breitbart, the Washington Times and the One America Network.
Also invited in, reporters from CBS, ABC, Bloomberg, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.
“Are CNN and the New York Times not in here right now because you are unhappy with their reporting?” Spicer was asked.
Spicer didn’t directly answer the question, saying it was his decision to expand the pool or reporters for his gaggle.
But at the end of the briefing, Spicer was pressed again on why some news organizations were not allowed in to his office for the gaggle.
(That audio was provided by Steven Portnoy of CBS Radio, who shared his recording with other radio news organizations.)
The move to keep certain news organizations out drew criticism from the White House Correspondents Association, which protested “strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House.”
The New York Times described the exclusion as a “highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.”
Reporters in the briefing cited one quote from Sean Spicer, in which he said the Trump White House “is more accessible than probably any prior administration.”
Democrats in Congress quickly picked up on the White House briefing dustup and turned it against the President.
“If Trump can’t handle press in the White House, he should move out,” said Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).