CNN, New York Times, Politico and More Blocked From White House Presser
The Times called the shutout a "highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps."
CNN, The New York Times, Politico and several other major media outlets were blocked from attending a Friday White House press briefing.
CNN was first to report that the White House handpicked which news organizations were allowed to attend the gaggle, an on-the-record but non-televised session, with press secretary Sean Spicer in his White House office.
Reporters from Buzzfeed, BBC, The Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times also were some of the other outlets that were not allowed in, while NBC, ABC, Fox News and CBS, along with conservative-leaning Breitbart, Washington Times and One America News Network, were permitted. The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg also attended, along with reporters from Hearst and McClatchy publications.
The Associated Press and TIME boycotted the briefing as a result of outlets being blocked.
"The AP believes the public should have as much access to the president as possible," the AP's director of media relations Lauren Easton said in a statement. The daily briefing is usually televised and open to all credentialed members of the White House press corps.
"This is an unacceptable development by the Trump White House," said CNN in a statement. "Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don't like. We'll keep reporting regardless."
Reporters told CNN the White House announced plans to swap out the usual on-camera Q&A for the less formal gaggle in Spicer's office earlier in the day.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said of the decision in a statement, "We invited the pool so everyone was represented. We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool. Nothing more than that," referring to the pool of Reuters, Bloomberg, CBS, Hearst Newspapers and CBS Radio.
CBS News later said it recorded audio of the briefing and shared it "out of obligation to protect the interests of all pool members."
The move came hours after President Donald Trump escalated his criticism of the media during his Friday morning speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. During his address, Trump said he wasn't against all the press, just "the fake news media or press" and decried how journalists "always bring up the First Amendment."
The White House Correspondents Association protested the decision, but the White House stood its ground when reporters who weren't on the approved list arrived and were turned around by officials.
During the gaggle, Spicer was asked if CNN and The New York Times were blocked because Trump isn't happy with their coverage. "We had it as pool, and then we expanded it, and we added some folks to come cover it. It was my decision to expand the pool," he replied.
"Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties," said New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet 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."
Politico editors Carrie Budoff Brown and John Harris told staffers in a memo that the publication plans to "very vigorously assert and defend an independent media’s right to cover the institution of the Presidency."
Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, said the paper is "currently evaluating what our response will be if this sort of thing happens again."
CNN worldwide president Jeff Zucker told NPR the decision came in "retaliation" for CNN's reporting and that the move sets "incredibly dangerous precedents" that "you would see in countries that are far less sophisticated than the United States."
He added, "It says more about them and the way they view the press, and the truth, than anything else.”
The White House Correspondents Association had immediately encouraged the press who were allowed in the gaggle to share their reporting with the outlets who were banned.
"The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House," said the group, which represents the White House press corps, in a statement. "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 National Press Club condemned the move and the Committee to Protect Journalists said the press freedom group was "concerned" with the gaggle ban and Trump's CPAC statements. The Wall Street Journal and McClatchy each released statements saying if they had known outlets were banned, they would have boycotted the gaggle and will do so if the situation occurs again in the future.
Fox's chief White House correspondent John Roberts told anchor Fox News' Shepard Smith that Fox supports the complaints being filed by the White House Correspondents Association and pool TV networks. "You can speculate, Shep, that there might be some extenuating circumstances as to why those people were not invited, we're going to look into that further," he said Friday night.
Many of the reporters took to Twitter to document the situation and raise questions about the threat to First Amendment rights.
See the reactions below.
Spicer requiring sign up for an 'expanded pool gaggle' -- w/ right to exclude reporters, after berating smaller pool this morning.— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) February 24, 2017
Partial list of orgs invited 2 limited access Spicer briefing: Breitbart, FOX, WashTimes, WSJ, CBS, NBC, ABC, Bberg. AP invited but declined— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) February 24, 2017
Spicer is putting his very nice, hard-working press aides in awkward position of having to answer questions about closed briefing selection— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) February 24, 2017
AP and Time boycotted the gaggle today because of the way it was handled.— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) February 24, 2017
Reporter on the phone saying Trump admin today "excluded a number of news organizations that have been targeted by the president."— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) February 24, 2017
Expanded pool and "some select invites" sure did include a lot of right wing outlets and left out major news orgs.— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) February 24, 2017
Reporters held out of today's White House briefing. pic.twitter.com/8uqelMjrtp— Noah Bierman (@Noahbierman) February 24, 2017
Reporters are the public’s representatives in the White House, and their job is to hold the government accountable. https://t.co/kdHNwh8iAT— ACLU National (@ACLU) February 24, 2017
In December, Spicer said barring media access is what a 'dictatorship' does. Today, he barred media access. https://t.co/vcjL3YuwOx— Marty Baron (@PostBaron) February 24, 2017
Cmte to Protect Journalists, which usually fights for press freedoms against totalitarian regimes, issued a stmt against the W.H. media ban. pic.twitter.com/fvKdEqfrMP— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 24, 2017
Some at CNN & NYT stood w/FOX News when the Obama admin attacked us & tried 2 exclude us-a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs https://t.co/8Vjcs0KCPR— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) February 24, 2017
WSJ says they would not have participated in gaggle had they known of the blocking of others and said they won't in future pic.twitter.com/Osef9I0XPx— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) February 24, 2017
All news organizations must refuse to attend briefings where major outlets are excluded because of critical coverage. https://t.co/tECvGX9PGZ— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) February 24, 2017