This Cannot Stand! Trump’s War on the Press Just Got Real as White House Bars Select Media from Briefing

by on February 24, 2017 · 16 comments

in Civil Rights

Donald Trump’s rhetorical war on the press just got very real.

Today, Friday, Feb. 24th, hours after Trump threatened the press – again – this time at a conservative activist confab, the White House barred select media organizations from a press briefing.

Reporters from CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, and Politico were prohibited from being in a press briefing at the White House on Friday afternoon. The briefing – in Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s West Wing office – was a so-called “gaggle”— an informal, off-camera question-and-answer session between the press secretary and reporters. The Hill, the BBC, the Guardian were also denied entry.

However, right-wing media outlets were allowed in. These included the white nationalist Breitbart, the arch-conservative The Washington Times and One America News Network.

A half-dozen journalists from mainstream press, such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Fox News, ABC News, and CBS News were also allowed entry.

The subject of the briefing?

Most of it – as it turns out –  was on the reporting by CNN of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ efforts to pressure the FBI to downplay or “knock down” reports that some of Trump’s top people were in communication with Russian government officials.

But wait, CNN wasn’t there.

The blowback was unchecked and immediate.

Time magazine and the Associated Press boycotted the gaggle.  The AP stated:

“AP believes the public should have as much access to the president as possible.”

The Wall Street Journal said it would not have attended if it known of the prohibition.

Even Bret Baier of Fox News, whose outlet was allowed in, reportedly stood with the reporters who were excluded, writing on Twitter:

“A WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs.”

CNN stated:

“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.”

The New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said:

“nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.”

Other news organizations and critics made their calls:

Politico: it’s “undemocratic and unacceptable.” Rep. Barbara Lee called it “chilling;”

For some it was “totalitarian.”

Just hours earlier – during his speech in front of Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Trump once again called the media “the enemy of the people”. But this time, he added, “and we’re going to do something about it.”

And they did. The very news organizations that are hot on the trail of the various stories about Trump’s Russian connections, the White House effort to improperly pressure the FBI about an on-going case, a case about the White House, were prohibited from a White House press briefing – off camera or not (it apparently was originally going to be on-camera).

This is unacceptable – and the major news outlets – except for the right-wingers – must stand together and boycott any new select media gaggles, as some of them have pledged to do.

Trump’s war on the press, his war on a free press, has been ratcheted up. It’s becoming real.

And America’s slide into an authoritarian Trumpian dictatorship just got a push.

This cannot stand!

Support the free press.

See Common Dreams

The Daily Beast

 

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

rick callejon February 24, 2017 at 4:59 pm

“Our press laws are such that differences of opinion among members of the Government are no longer open to the public; they are none of the press’s business.”

Adolf Hitler

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triggerfinger February 24, 2017 at 7:06 pm

This is very dangerous territory!

Kudos to Bret Baier for showing solidarity with the exiled reporters.

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triggerfinger February 24, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Also AP and Time magazine.

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Gary Gilmore February 26, 2017 at 10:31 pm

Agreed.

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Doug Porter February 24, 2017 at 7:19 pm

While I agree it was egregious for the WH to bar certain members of the press, let us not overlook that this story is now getting more play than the CNN (& now Washington Post) story about the administration playing the intel agencies and key congress clowns to cover their tracks on the latest Russia/GOP news.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie February 25, 2017 at 12:52 pm

As journalists, even citizen journalists – it is extremely important that we at the OB Rag and SDFP comment on and highlight this move by the White House – more than egregious, more like authoritarian. Last night, Rachel Maddow barely mentioned it and the LA Times was missing on it this morning.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie February 25, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Although I certainly agree the bigger story is how the White House used the heads of both the Senate and House Intelligence [?] committees supposed to be investigating the Trump – Russia connections. Nunes and Barr have both been too compromised and it’s clear we need a Special Prosecutor of a 911 style Commission.

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Michael Russell February 24, 2017 at 8:49 pm

I agree that this is the beginning of a fascist regime, but I’m not sure the ‘credentialled press’ should complain, after all they are just another ‘vetting’ system that decides who are ‘real’ reporters and who are not, which stories get print and which are swept away.

This attack on the media may be smoke and mirrors to distract us from the real stories: nuclear arms race return to Cold War era, end of health-insurance, American refugees flee to Canada, etc. But I’m not sure we ‘honest reporters’ should care or do anything to stop it. We should give them the rope.

If we concentrate on independent, ethical journalism, and report the real stories, we rob the Corporate Broadcast Media of their legitimacy, and those that fold into the fascist’s propaganda machine will become as irrelevant as FauxKNEWS. People need good information in order to make good decisions, and if we provide that value, we will win, in the long run.

The people who listen to the Propaganda will make bad decisions and suffer the consequences. OUR JOB is to tell the truth and put it into context.

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Marc Snelling Marc Snelling February 25, 2017 at 7:05 am

Many of the same people chastizing the White House for excluding media during the last term are now cheering it in this term. The hypocrisy is not lost on some of the conservative media though. National Review called the move “silly and wrong. Full stop.” A Fox anchor noted that they had CNN and NYT folks stand with them when they were excluded.

The obsession people in this White House have with media is immense. Many people don’t know the chief of staff is a “failed director” as Clooney called him. In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed , Generation Zero, The Undefeated (about Sarah Palin). Had never heard of them, but each one got worse reviews than the next. ‘The Undefeated’ has an IMDB rating of 2.2 out of 10, about as low as you can get. Fox and Friends rates a 3 out of 10. Praise from the White House doesn’t seem to be helping.

The press didn’t call Russian intelligence officers, they didn’t get six Republicans to tank the labor secretary nomination, they are just quoting the actual words of the White House. Quoting non-existent massacres in Bowling Green, Sweden and Germany are unforced errors borne of ignorance and bias. Shooting the messenger won’t change that- and it isn’t just an expression.

Members of the press die for having the courage to write about war and abuse of power. David Gilkey of NPR last year in Afghanistan for example. How far do we go back to “make America great again”? We’ve had times where newpaper publishers were killed for what they wrote. Murdering Elijah Parish Lovejoy did not stop the message of abolishing slavery. The award that is given in his name highlights some of those who live up to that ideal today. We can’t forget the importance of these people. Even though overall press credibility has been dragged down by the hatred and tabloid journalism typified by those behind the current White House.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page February 27, 2017 at 11:06 am

Marc,

I always read your comments because they are well thought out and well written so when you mentioned something at the beginning of this comment, I was surprised and went looking for more information. You said the White House excluded the media during the last term. I can’t find anything about Obama excluding the media, can you elaborate on that?

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Marc Snelling Marc Snelling February 27, 2017 at 1:09 pm

People read my comments?! :)

It isn’t the same level – but in 2009 White House reps were basically saying things along the lines of ‘Fox is an extension of the Republican party, not a news network’.

Anita Dunn “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

Dan Pfeiffer “We simply decided to stop abiding by the fiction, which is aided and abetted by the mainstream press, that Fox is a traditional news organization,”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/us/politics/23fox.html

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Geoff Page Geoff Page February 27, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Well, I read your comments, Marc and you wrote “Many of the same people chastizing the White House for excluding media during the last term…” You did write “excluding” so I went looking for information on when the Obama White House “excluded” the media and found none, so I asked. I found what you’ve offered here but it isn’t the same thing as physically excluding media as trump has done. The Obama White House criticized Fox and said those things but they did not exclude Fox News from its news briefings. I think it is an important point because some people will read this and think, oh, Obama did it so why are they crying foul now? without checking as I did. That conclusion would just legitimize what trump did and we surely don’t want to do that.

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Marc Snelling Marc Snelling February 28, 2017 at 1:37 pm

I’m not trying to legitimize the current White House. This was an attempted effort to exclude versus an actual exclusion. What I was getting at is press solidarity. Obviously Fox News has their own bias. In terms of that specific language “excluded” that came through an FOIA request by conserative watchdog Judicial Watch: deputy press secretary Josh Earnest wrote “We’ve demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews…” in relation to TARP ‘pay czar’ Kenneth Feinberg.

In the NYT story I linked this paragraph summarizes the outcome: “In a sign of discomfort with the White House stance, Fox’s television news competitors refused to go along with a Treasury Department effort on Thursday to exclude Fox from a round of interviews with the executive-pay czar Kenneth R. Feinberg that was to be conducted with a “pool” camera crew shared by all the networks. That followed a pointed question at a White House briefing this week by Jake Tapper, an ABC News correspondent, about the administration’s treatment of “one of our sister organizations.”

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Geoff Page Geoff Page February 28, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Ok, Marc, you may think this is a fine point but I think it matters. The last administration did nothing like this. trump excluded major main line news organizations, excluded them. You can’t conflate the incident you described about wanting to, but not actually excluding Fox from a round of interviews with executive-pay czar Feinberg with what trump did. Much as it pains me to write this, trump is the current president, Feinberg was not a president .

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Marc Snelling Marc Snelling February 28, 2017 at 5:40 pm

That’s not the perspective I’m looking at it from. Im saying from the press perspective, you just had an administration that wanted to exclude an outlet with clear bias and they rallied around each other to all be included. Now what was a sleight is a punch in the face. So much so that people on ‘the right’ are calling it out too. If that incident merited solidarity how much is called for now? Fox isn’t even good enough for this WH , unless it’s ‘opinion’ shows like Fox and Friends. Fake News is the WH. Fox isn’t biased enough now they’ve gone full circle.

From the presidential level it’s not a comparison. This so-called president speaks in sentence fragments and filler words. Without a bias to fill the gaps in it doesn’t make sense. We are in a lot of trouble if we let this level of animosity continue to escalate. We forget history we’ll start repeating it. It’s going to take people of all political stripes to put the brakes on this now and I hope we’re up to it. That’s what I’m saying. From the perspective of a citizen journalist.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page March 1, 2017 at 9:19 am

Marc, I agree with all you have to say. I am just very sensitive when I see people comparing the last administration to this one. My only difference of opinion with you is the comparison of the two things involving the press because I believe the two are not comparable. Just my personal opinion, I have no desire to quarrel with you because we are of a like mind on most everything. I believe you have clarified your point well enough that we can move on. Thanks for the comments.

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