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Journalists' Group Warns of 'Unconscionable Assault on the First Amendment' After Trump Tweet

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes questions at the White House Press Briefing on May 9, 2018. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The White House Correspondents’ Association warned of an “unconscionable assault on the First Amendment” if President Trump follows through on a tweet suggesting revoking the credentials of media he deems unfair.

“The Fake News is working overtime. Just reported that, despite the tremendous success we are having with the economy & all things else, 91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake). Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt? Take away credentials?” Trump tweeted today.

WHCA president Margaret Talev replied in a statement that “some may excuse the president’s inflammatory rhetoric about the media, but just because the president does not like news coverage does not make it fake.”

“A free press must be able to report on the good, the bad, the momentous and the mundane, without fear or favor,” said Talev, senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg. “And a president preventing a free and independent press from covering the workings of our republic would be an unconscionable assault on the First Amendment.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about Trump’s tweet at today’s briefing and whether stripping journalists of their press credentials is “a line that, as press secretary, you would be willing to cross.”

“I’m standing up in front of you right now, taking your questions. I think a number of you have mentioned, both off-air, or on-air, or in private, and a number of other occasions that this is one of the most accessible White Houses. We’re very committed to a free press, and I think that we demonstrate that every single day, not only by me being up here and taking your questions, as I’m doing right now. The president did it just a couple of hours ago, and has made multiple sets of remarks, and will be in front of the press later tonight, as well,” Sanders replied.

“…We are here. We are taking questions. We are doing everything we can to provide regular and constant information to the American people, and there is a responsibility by you guys to provide accurate information. And we’re going to continue to try to work with you, as I’m doing right here, right now, and as the president did just a couple of hours ago.”

Using the French acronym for their press-freedom organization, Reporters Without Borders tweeted today, “These verbal attacks seeking to restrict the ability of the American press to simply do its job are unworthy of the country of the First Amendment. They are part of the reason RSF downgraded the US to 45th place in our 2018 World Press Freedom Index.”

That was down two places from the 2017 index. Reporters Without Borders explained in the rankings that “Trump’s presidency has fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report.”

“He has declared the press an ‘enemy of the American people’ in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, and routinely uses the term ‘fake news’ in retaliation for critical reporting. He has even called for revoking certain media outlets’ broadcasting licenses,” the group said.

“The violent anti-press rhetoric from the highest level of the US government has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or simply attempting to ask public officials questions. Reporters have even been subject to physical assault while on the job. It appears the Trump effect has only amplified the disappointing press freedom climate that predated his presidency.”