Several news organizations boycotted the White House press gaggle this afternoon after the White House excluded CNN and other outlets from attending.
Press gaggles — on-the-record scrums with communication staff that disallow video recording — are a staple of White House reporting, and it’s highly unusual for a reporter to be barred from the meeting. Today, after Trump delivered a stinging (and contradictory) critique of the media, The New York Times, CNN, the L.A. Times, Politico and BuzzFeed were prevented from attending.
The Associated Press and Time boycotted the gaggle in solidarity with their colleagues.
Jeff Mason, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said his group is “protesting strongly” against the ban and encouaging those news organizations who were allowed in to share their notes.
“The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” Mason said 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.”
In a statement from its corporate account, CNN called the ban “unacceptable.”
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) February 24, 2017
Dean Baquet, the Executive Editor for The New York Times, noted that the decision to exclude The New York Times was unprecedented in the paper’s 150 year-plus history:
“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” Baquet said 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.”
Although unprecedented for the Trump administration, today’s move is in line with steps taken by Trump’s team during the campaign. In the months leading up to Election Day, Trump’s campaign prevented so-called “blacklisted” news organizations, including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post and BuzzFeed, from attending his rallies as credentialed journalists.
During the presidential transition, the White House floated the possibility of evicting reporters from the James Brady briefing room entirely. The proposal would have seen them relocate to a conference center across the street.
The immediate reaction to today’s restriction was surprise among seasoned White House reporters who’ve never seen this kind of treatment before.
Can’t remember any press secretary from Clinton, Bush or Obama canceling briefing and handpicking small group for gaggle. @PressSec
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) February 24, 2017
NYT Wash buro chief Elisabeth Bumiller to me on gaggle block: “Our most experienced WH reporters have never seen anything like this.”
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 24, 2017