UPDATE – The ban also included The Hill, The Los Angeles Times, the BBC, The Daily Mail and The New York Daily News.
Donald Trump ratcheted up his war against the American media today when his press secretary, Sean Spicer excluded The New York Times, CNN and Politico from a West Wing briefing. The Times‘ story on the unprecedented White House action can be read here.
It remains to be seen what the motive was behind the move but clearly there will be strong suspicions that the Trump team is trying to drive a wedge into the media, hoping that many, if not the majority of the media accredited to the White House will fail to show solidarity with their banned colleagues for fear of attracting similar punishment.
The Times‘ reported that only Time magazine and The Associated Press boycotted the briefing in protest.
Conservative outlets such as Breitbart News, The One America News Network and The Washington Times attended the briefing as did more mainstream media such as ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News. As far as can be ascertained none made any protest at the briefing.
The Times, CNN and Politico have been to the forefront of aggressive reporting on the early, troubled days of the Trump administration which have seen the new president stumble from one crisis to another.
At an early press conference Trump signaled his displeasure with CNN and the website Buzzfeed when he refused to take questions from either outlet. CNN and Buzzfeed had published details of an explosive investigation carried out by a former MI6 officer on behalf of anti-Trump Republicans and then the Clinton campaign.
The report claimed, inter alia, that the Russian intelligence services had videotaped Trump in a Moscow hotel room as prostitutes urinated over him. The report said that Trump had chosen the hotel room as an act of revenge because it was where the Obama’s had stayed during a trip. If true the incident could leave the US President open to blackmail from the Putin regime in Moscow.
Trump’s conflict with CNN can be seen on the video below at the 1:30 minute mark:
This latest move by the Trump White House may be the opening shot in a more open conflict with the mainstream media, a conflict whose ultimate aim may be to control and even manipulate favourable coverage of the Trump presidency.
Earlier in the day Trump launched another fierce broadside against the media at the CPAC conference, the most recent in a series of attacks which show no sign of abating.
This latest development will undoubtedly be seen as the most sinister in Trump’s war against the media since access to the President or his spokespersons is regarded as one of the cornerstones of American democracy.
It remains to be seen whether this is a one-off action or a more permanent ban on the three outlets.
Either way message is clear: continue to report critically on this President and access to him will be closed off; don’t probe too deeply and access will continue.
Whether other outlets show solidarity with The New York Times, CNN and Politico remains to be seen but the portents are not encouraging. When Trump refused to take questions from CNN at the press conference illustrated above on YouTube, other reporters made no protest and continued as if nothing had happened.
This was a demonstration of a longstanding media axiom, and not just in America, where the abiding rule more often than not is that one outlet’s misfortune is another’s opportunity.
We shall see.