Throughout the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump would bar media outlets with whom he disagreed from attending his rallies. During a December discussion with Sean Spicer (prior to becoming White House press secretary and fodder for Melissa McCarthy), Politico’s Jake Sherman asked if this tactic would be used by a Trump White House.
“Look, there’s a big difference between a campaign where it is a private venue using private funds and a government entity,” Spicer told Sherman. “I think we have a respect for the press when it comes to the government. That is something you can’t ban an entity from. You know conservative, liberal, otherwise I think that is what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship.”
On Friday, the Trump administration took on the role of a dictatorship as described by their own press secretary.
Holding an off-camera press briefing (aka a “gaggle”), the White House barred the BBC, Buzzfeed, CNN, The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and Politico from covering it.
“We invited the pool so everyone was represented,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders explained. “We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool. Nothing more than that.”
This is the Trump administration. Of course it was more than that.
In audio posted by Politico, Sean Spicer further explained the ban to the press gaggle:
“We’re going to aggressively push back. We’re just not going to sit back and let, you know, false narratives, false stories, inaccurate facts get out there.”
That is the sound of a presidential administration violating the First Amendment. With the religious preference in the administration’s Muslim ban violating the Establishment Clause, this is becoming an ugly habit.
The morning of the gaggle, President Trump dished out a blistering attack against the press from the CPAC stage:
“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make ‘em up when there are none.”
On Thursday, CNN reported the FBI rejected a White House request to publicly denounce reports of communications between Russian officials and Trump’s associates. The White House request violates a Department of Justice guidance issued in 2007 and 2009, which limits communications on pending cases.
The CNN report cites multiple unnamed “US officials briefed on the matter,” on which Trump zeroed in from the CPAC stage:
“They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out.”
Literally minutes prior to Trump’s CPAC speech, several reporters attended an off-the-record meeting with White House officials. Pot, meet kettle.
Trump himself is not above using unnamed sources (for bullshit stories). While peddling the racist birther conspiracy theory in 2012, Trump cited “an ‘extremely credible source’” had called his office to inform him President Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent.
Trump essentially became an unnamed source when he played the role of his own fake spokesman, John Barron. Throughout the 1980s, Trump would make phone statements to the media as Barron. He stopped using the alias after he testified under oath to being John Barron during a 1990 trial concerning his use of undocumented immigrant workers. The elephantiasis of this man’s balls would give John Merrick a run for his money.
As week six of Trump’s presidency begins, his attacks against our nation’s intelligence agencies and the fourth estate are not slowing down; they’re becoming more intense.
Throughout the next four years, the media will not only be the voice of the American public, it will be our greatest ally against a presidential administration ran by a demagogue.
Regardless of your political affiliation, Friday’s action by the White House to limit the freedom of the press should concern everyone.
CNN’s own Jake Tapper may have described it best:
“This White House does not seem to respect the idea of accountability. This White House does not seem to value an independent press. There is a word for that line of thinking. The word is ‘un-American.'”