Media are criticizing as “unacceptable” the Trump administration’s blacklisting of outlets from a White House briefing and some are considering joining the boycott of AP, Time Magazine, and USA Today immediately. Unlike those outlets, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News accepted the invitation to join the briefing and attended.
White House Aides Refused Entry To Several Major News Outlets
NY Times: “Journalists From The New York Times And Several Other News Organizations Were Prohibited From Attending” White House Press Briefing. On February 24, The New York Times reported that reporters from several high-profile news outlets “were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer, for the scheduled briefing.” From report:
Journalists from The New York Times and several other news organizations were prohibited from attending a briefing by President Trump’s press secretary on Friday, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.
Reporters from The Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times and Politico were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer, for the scheduled briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer only allowed in reporters from a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed.
Those organizations included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended. [New York Times, 2/24/17]
Associated Press, Time Magazine, And USA Today Immediately Boycotted Briefing In Response
“Reporters From The Associated Press, Time Magazine And USA Today Decided In The Moment To Boycott The Briefing Because Of How It Was Handled.” Although the AP, Time, and USA Today refused to attend the briefing, the major television networks that were invited instead of CNN -- NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox News -- chose to attend. From CNNMoney.com:
The White House press pool usually includes representatives from one television outlet, one radio outlet and one print outlet, as well as reporters from a few wire services. In this case, four of the five major television networks -- NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News -- were invited and attended the meeting, while only CNN was blocked.
CNN reporters attempted to access the gaggle when it began at about 1:45 p.m. ET. As they walked with a large group of fellow journalists from the White House briefing room toward Spicer's office, an administration official turned them around, informing them CNN wasn't on the list of attendees.
Reporters from The Associated Press, Time magazine and USA Today decided in the moment to boycott the briefing because of how it was handled. [CNNMoney.com, 2/24/17]
Some Media Outlets Condemn Blacklist, Threaten To “Not Participate In Such Closed Briefings In The Future"
National Press Club President Jeffrey Ballou: “The National Press Club Supports Our Colleagues In The White House Correspondents Association In Its Protest And Calls On The White House To Reverse Course.” The National Press Club’s president Jeffrey Ballou condemned the White House’s move, saying that the decision “harkens back to the darkest chapters of US history and reeks of undemocratic, un-American and unconstitutional censorship” and said the National Press Club “supports our colleagues in the White House Correspondents Association in its protest and calls on the White House to reverse course." From The Hill’s February 24 report:
National Press Club leaders were outraged Friday after the White House kept certain news outlets out of press secretary Sean Spicer's question-and-answer session.
“I find it deeply disturbing and completely unacceptable that the White House is actively running a campaign against a constitutionally enshrined free and independent press,” Press Club President Jeffrey Ballou wrote in a statement.
“The action harkens back to the darkest chapters of US history and reeks of undemocratic, un-American and unconstitutional censorship. The National Press Club supports our colleagues in the White House Correspondents Association in its protest and calls on the White House to reverse course.”
National Press Club Journalism Institute President Barbara Cochran also slammed Spicer's decision and implored President Trump to “stop interfering” with the press’s attempts to its job. [The Hill, 2/24/17]
Christian Science Monitor DC Bureau Chief: “I Won’t Go To These Press Briefings” If They Continue To Be “Limited.”” In a statement to Media Matters’ Joe Strupp, DC bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor Linda Feldmann said that she “won’t go to these press briefings” if they “are limited … in that way,” adding that she has “never seen the White House do a restricted gaggle.” [Media Matters, 2/24/17]
BuzzFeed News: “We Won’t Let These Latest Antics Distract Us From Continuing To Cover This Administration Fairly And Aggressively.”
CNN: “This Is An Unacceptable Development By The Trump White House.”
The Huffington Post: “We Are Deeply Disturbed By This Decision And Are Heartened That Other Members Of The White House Correspondents Association Decided To Protest The Gaggle In Solidarity.” The Huffington Post’s editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen responded to the White House’s decision to bar certain outlets from the briefing saying that she is “deeply disturbed” by the decision, “and are heartened that other members of the White House Correspondents Association decided to protest the gaggle in solidarity”:
The Huffington Post was also barred from today's briefing, according to a statement from Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen, who said she is “deeply disturbed” by the exclusion in a statement:
“We are deeply disturbed by this decision and are heartened that other members of the White House Correspondents Association decided to protest the gaggle in solidarity,” Polgreen said. “We hope that the White House will recognize the vital importance of including all credentialed media outlets when briefing reporters on matters of undeniable public interest.” [Poynter.org, 2/24/17]
LA Times: “The Times Will Continue To Report On The Trump Administration Without Fear Or Favor.” The LA Times’ editor-in-chief Davan Maharaj called the decision to not allow certain outlets into the White House press briefing “unfortunate” and added that “The public has a right to know, and that means being informed by a variety of news sources, not just those filtered by the White House press office in hopes of getting friendly coverage”:
Davan Maharaj, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, called the newspaper’s exclusion “unfortunate.”
“The public has a right to know, and that means being informed by a variety of news sources, not just those filtered by the White House press office in hopes of getting friendly coverage,” Maharaj said in a statement. “Regardless of access, the Times will continue to report on the Trump administration without fear or favor.” [The Washington Post, 2/24/17]
McClatchy: “We Will Not Participate” In White House Press Briefings “If That Practice Continues.” While McClatchy participated in the press briefing, they warned that they “will not participate again if that practice continues”:
Politico: “We Plan To Very Vigorously Assert And Defend An Independent Media’s Right To Cover The Institution Of The Presidency.”
Society Of Professional Journalists: “The Society Of Professional Journalists Stands By Those News Organizations That Chose Not To Participate In The Briefing.”
Wall Street Journal: “Had We Known At The Time” That Certain Outlets Were Barred From The White House Press Briefing, “We Would Not Have Participated And We Will Not Participate In Such Closed Briefings In The Future.” The Wall Street Journal participated in the press briefing, but issued a statement saying, “had we known at the time” that some outlets would be not allowed into the press briefing, “we would not have participated and we will not participate in such closed briefings in the future”:
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone Encourages Other Outlets To Stand Up To Blacklist
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone issued the following statement after the Trump White House banned members of the media from attending a briefing:
Media Matters sounded the alarm about the clear and present danger Donald Trump presented to a free press. We told White House correspondents that Trump’s blacklist was only going to get worse over time if they didn’t act. And it wasn’t just us. More than 300,000 people signed a petition urging White House correspondents to stand up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate if Trump banned one -- or more -- of their colleagues.
Today’s actions underscore the importance of White House correspondents standing up to Trump’s blacklist. It's no coincidence that the outlets that have been at the forefront in breaking stories about Trump’s conflicts of interest and his associates’ ties to Russia were banned from today’s gaggle. Trump is trying to delegitimize and punish news outlets for practicing rigorous journalism while simultaneously giving their spots to pro-Trump propagandists.
Outlets like Time and The Associated Press did the right thing in standing up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate in the gaggle in solidarity with their banned colleagues.
It’s unfortunate and damaging for the profession of journalism that ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg chose to support Trump’s blacklist by attending the briefing. It may sound harsh to characterize their participation in the event as support, but that’s what it is. By participating, these outlets not only make it easier for Trump to continue blacklisting journalists, but they also lend legitimacy to a process that is fundamentally inconsistent with a free press.
Over 320,000 individuals have signed Media Matters' petition calling for the White House press corps to stand up to Trump's blacklist.
This item has been updated with additional statements.