Don’t describe what’s happening between the Trump White House and the press as a “feud.” This is all-out, no-holds-barred war between the president and the media that despises him.
The White house refused to allow the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, CNN, and Politico to sit in on a briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
The unprecedented action caused Time magazine and the Associated Press to turn down the invitation to attend in protest.
The White House did invite several Trump-friendly outlets including Breitbart News, One America News, and the Washington Times to the gaggle.
“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, 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.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the press corps, quickly rebuked the White House’s actions.
“The W.H.C.A. board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” the association president, Jeff 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.”
The White House move came hours after Mr. Trump delivered a slashing attack on the news media in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The president denounced news organizations as “dishonest” purveyors of “fake news” and mocked journalists for claiming free speech rights.
“They always bring up the First Amendment,” Mr. Trump said to cheers.
A White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, played down the events in an email on Friday afternoon.
“We invited the pool so everyone was represented,” Ms. Sanders wrote. “We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool. Nothing more than that.”
Mr. Spicer’s small-group Friday session, known as a gaggle, was scheduled as a no-camera event, less formal than his usual briefings that are carried live on cable news. But past administrations have not hand-selected outlets that can attend such sessions.
“It was clear that they let in a lot of news outlets with less reach who are Trump-friendly,” said Noah Bierman, a White House reporter for The Los Angeles Times, who was barred. “They let in almost every network but CNN. That’s concerning, the handpicking aspect of it.”
“Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest,” said the Times’ executive editor. He might have added that an honest, unbiased, non-partisan press is also of “crucial national interest,” but Mr. Baquet couldn’t bring himself to make that statement — not when most of the national press has made it very clear that they sincerely believe it is in the “national interest” to oppose and eventually bring down this president. To do that, they will go to any lengths, write any falsehood. It is the most irresponsible, dangerous, and ultimately stupid effort in media history to inform the American people of their government.
But Trump has picked a fight he cannot possibly win — as Republican presidents have repeatedly discovered since…forever. Unless Trump wants to try and shut down unfriendly media, they will always have the last word and a huge bullhorn to get their side of the story out. The president will be able to convince his supporters of his version of the truth, but when most media outlets report the opposite, the majority will side with the media.
Not all negative media reports about the Trump administration are “fake news” and the president’s endless trumpeting of half truths and lies about how well his administration is doing needs to be reported on and the record corrected. Trump doesn’t want the press to report honestly. He wants them to report on him positively. In that respect, what difference is there between Trump’s need for adulation and the press’s desire to destroy him?
We’ve got a compulsive liar as a president and an unthinking, reflexively hostile media reporting on him.