Major Outlets Blocked From Friday's White House Briefing, What Does It Foreshadow?

On Friday, the White House press office cancelled a planned briefing, opting for an off camera “gaggle.” Then, as reporters lined up to meet with Press Secretary Sean Spicer, a number were refused entry into the room where the briefing was to be held.

The outlets excluded from Friday’s briefing were: Politico, The Washington Post, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, CNN, the BBC and L.A. Times -- The Huffington Post was also reported to have been barred. The Associated Press and Time did not attend the briefing out of solidarity for their colleagues.

Excluding these major outlets from a daily briefing was both unprecedented and clearly premeditated. Sowing ire among the media is a hallmark of Donald Trump’s presidency.

What happened Friday was another attempt to misdirect. The White House wants to steer the national conversation away from serious questions and allegations regarding the administration's involvement with Russia and FBI leaks.



Thus, the press attack is twofold: A main goal of the handpicked exclusion is to avoid media focus on Reince Priebus and his controversial and suspect intervention with the FBI. Second, restricting access to White House press briefings sets a dangerous standard; it upends the First Amendment.

Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, stated: “This is an undemocratic path that the administration is traveling.” Other outlets had equally damning responses to the exclusions. Ironically, Press Secretary Sean Spicer might tend to agree with Baron, if we are to believe what he told Politico in December 2016:

“I think we have a respect for the press when it comes to the government; that is something that you can't ban an entity from. Conservative, liberal or otherwise. I think that's what makes a democracy a democracy, versus a dictatorship.”

The major question: Was this expulsion a one-off, or do Friday’s events foreshadow a frightening slide into state-run media?

Even prior to Friday, it appeared the latter was likely. Now, it seems almost inevitable. Reuters editor-in-chief Steve Adler wrote to his staff at the end of January that President Trump should be covered like an authoritarian.

Constant attacks on the press point to a totalitarian-style White House that relies on lies and and unsubstantiated claims to battle its perceived enemies: real or imagined. The best defense is a free and vibrant press corps, acting on behalf of the American people, to cover the White House and speak truth to power.

If Trump is successful in restricted press access, the administration can change official facts and define their own narratives — without watchdogs to safeguard the democratic institutions that define American exceptionalism.

2 comments about "Major Outlets Blocked From Friday's White House Briefing, What Does It Foreshadow?".
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  1. Christina Ricucci from Millenia 3 Communications, February 27, 2017 at 3:24 p.m.

    Of course you’re right, Phillip, about the significance of the Friday incident and the tenuousness of freedom of the press in America; however, the day-in, day-out repetition of this theme—are we on the verge of “a frightening slide into state-run media?”—is already tiresome after only one month. Are we going to see four years of people professing shock that Trump is making good on all the threats which he made during his campaign? He threatened to sue the media more times than I can count; he threatened to sue lawyers who released his tax and other personal info,  as well as “open[ing} up our libel laws” to make it easier to sue newspapers and other media and “win lots of money." He accused the media of conspiring to rig the election against him; he threatened to sue other candidates, specific journalists, women who accused him of sexual assault, and God knows who else (probably the second grader who tattled on him to the teacher). Surely people didn’t think Trump would somehow change once he got into the White House. I can’t reconcile that possibility with his track record of insanity, no clue about how our government is framed, his pitiful need for approval, and his massive ego and raging temper.

    Yes—freedom of the press in America is already on its way up the creek. Reality check; there’s truth and there’s "Trump truth,” and they are NOT the same thing; it’s frightening that millions of people are already unable to tell the difference—and what a lucky thing for Trump and friends. A steady diet of subtle (or not-so-subtle) replacement of concrete, verifiable facts with “alternative facts”, outright lies spoken with passion and the promise of “make[ing] America great again, staffing his administration with mouthpieces who will reinforce the belief that the media is the real enemy and that Trump is the one person who can be trusted to make their lives better—how can this possibly signal anything other than what’s already happening? Trump spent 18 months laying out the kind of autocracy of which he would be the head. Wasn’t anybody paying attention?

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, February 27, 2017 at 8:27 p.m.

    No, many weren't. They are clueless about the mechanics of government and refuse to learn. Wait until the checks stop and a lot of people die directly due to his and his comrades' actions. And for every job saved, 3 will be lost to robotics/technology and the high school only non trained folks still won't have a job.

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