The White House blocked a handful of major news outlets from an off-camera briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday. Journalists from CNN, New York Times, BBC, Politico and The Hill were among some of the media outlets barred from the press gaggle.
Initially, reporters were told that they must sign up for the briefing. However, after doing so, some were turned away at the door after White House staff said they were not on the list of allowed reporters. Conservative journalists from outlets such as Breitbart, One America News and the Washington Times were allowed access.
The move to bar admittance for some leading news outlets is unprecedented. In a statement, New York Times‘ executive Dean Baquet said the publication has never received treatment like this from any administration.
“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” Baquet said.
“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 Associated Press and TIME boycotted the briefing in solidarity with the other outlets who were banned. The Wall Street Journal was allowed in, but later said they were unaware other reporters had been turned away at the door.
“…had we known at the time, we would not have participated, and we will not participate in such closed briefings in the future,” the publication said.
In addition to the conservative reporters, Spicer also allowed some more main stream outlets like Reuters, ABC and Bloomberg to participate.
The decision to host an invite-only question and answer session with Spicer was immediately met with outrage from journalists and free press watchdog groups. The White House Correspondents Association strongly denounced the move.
“The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” said President Jeff Mason. “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.”
The White House’s decision to host an exclusive press gaggle comes after a combative press conference Thursday. Press Secretary Sean Spicer admonished New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush for the way the journalist was conducting himself at the briefing.
“Glenn, this isn’t a TV program … OK? You don’t get to just yell out questions,” said Spicer.
“We’re going to raise our hands like big boys and girls. Because it’s not your job to just yell out questions.”
President Trump has made both the Times and CNN frequent targets of his ire. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland Friday, Trump continued his attacks on what he deems “fake news.”
It seems now that the Trump Administration has graduated from complaining about unflattering coverage to freezing out those media outlets altogether.
[New York Times] [Washington Post] [Roll Call] [Politico] [Breitbart] [Photo courtesy Martinez Monsivais/AP via NPR]