New York Times, CNN, Los Angeles Times, and Politico all reportedly barred from afternoon press briefing.
(COMMONDREAMS) Just hours after President Donald Trump launched his latest rhetorical (and predictable) attack on the press during a speech to right-wing activists, CNN and other outlets have reportedly been blocked from attending Friday afternoon’s press briefing at the White House.
“The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico were also excluded from the meeting, which is known as a gaggle and is less formal than the traditional Q-and-A session in the White House briefing room.
“The Associated Press and Time magazine boycotted the briefing because of how it was handled. The White House Correspondents Association is protesting.
“The conservative media organizations Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One America News Network were allowed in.”
The cable news outlet reported that its correspondents who were barred entry were offered “no immediate explanation” from White House staff about why they had been denied.
The move, described as “unprecedented” by reporters and journalism experts, comes a day after CNN reported that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had attempted to get the FBI to push back against reporting by several outlets, including the Times and CNN, that there had been consistent communications between members of the Trump campaign and transition teams and Russian government officials.
In a statement, the White House Correspondents’ Association decried the move.
“The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” said Jeff Mason, the group’s president. “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.”
During his earlier speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Trump repeatedly attacked the news media and called reporters supplying negative or critical coverage of his administration an”the enemy of the people.”
[Editor’s note: This breaking news story may be updated]
The White House’s decision to selectively bar certain news outlets from a Friday afternoon off-camera briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer has been decried as “undemocratic and unacceptable;” “chilling;” and “totalitarian.”
Not to mention “stupid.”
CNN called it “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.”
And New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet declared in a statement: “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties. 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.”
In addition to CNN, the Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico, outlets that were blocked from the so-called “gaggle” reportedly included The Hill, the BBC, the Guardian, and BuzzFeed. Right-wing outlets Breitbart and One American News were allowed in, among others.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the exclusion “yet another disturbing example of the Trump [administration]’s contempt for the vital role a free press plays in our democracy.”
Indeed, the incident played out just hours after Trump called the media an “enemy of the people” at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland.
Other responses poured in online from lawmakers, journalists, and media watchdogs—some warning of the decision’s implications, others cautioning against allowing the news to be a distraction from larger matters: