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White House Excludes Several Outlets From Press Gaggle

Multiple media outlets were excluded from a White House media briefing Friday afternoon. NBC News, CBS, ABC, and FOX were allowed in, CNN was not.
Image: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on Feb. 23, 2017 in the Washington, D.C.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on Feb. 23, 2017 in the Washington, D.C.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

Multiple media outlets were blocked from a White House gaggle Friday afternoon, hours after President Donald Trump again labeled the press as enemies of the American people and vowed to "do something about it."

Reporters didn’t expect the usual and more formal on-camera daily briefing from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, but did expect a more spontaneous "gaggle" with the White House’s main spokesperson at some point Friday afternoon.

Around noon, the White House sent updated guidance that the gaggle would be off-camera with an "expanded pool."

The White House emailed the selected reporters that they were okayed to attend.

NBC News was allowed into the off-camera briefing and decided to stay with the intention of sharing all newsgathering material with journalism colleagues. The "pool" was also in the room — meaning that, under a longstanding agreement, the material would be shared with all media colleagues regardless of who was physically present.

While representatives from NBC News, CBS, ABC, and FOX were allowed into the off-camera briefing, CNN was not. Hallie Jackson, who was there for NBC/MSNBC used her opportunity to ask, as did others, why some of her colleagues had been excluded.

Buzzfeed, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, the Hill and Politico were among the other outlets not allowed in to cover the gaggle, with representatives from the Associated Press and Time declining to go into the gaggle because of how it was being handled.

CNN's public relations wing tweeted that the move was an "unacceptable development by the Trump White House."

"Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don't like. We'll keep reporting regardless."

White House Correspondents Association President Jeff Mason emailed members that the board "is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House."

"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 email read.

During the briefing in question Spicer was asked about why certain outlets were not present. He said it was because the gaggle, an info was an "expanded pool" and he made that decision.

Spicer defended the press office's decision to limit the press included in the gaggle, saying “we had a pool and then we expanded it. We added some folks to come cover it."

"We do what we can to be accessible. We do what we can to accommodate the press,” Spicer told the small group of reporters asking why other outlets were not included. "I think we have gone above and beyond when it comes to accessibility and openness and getting folks, our officials, our team. And so, respectfully I disagree with the premise of the question."

Other administrations, on occasion, excluded certain journalists in the past.

Early on in the Obama White House, the administration attempted to exclude Fox News from a press pool.

Hours earlier on Friday, Trump doubled down on his criticism of American mainstream media calling them "the enemy of the American People" during his speech to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. He insisted reporters stop using unnamed sources.

"They have no sources they just make them up when there are none," Trump told the at-capacity CPAC crowd which cheered in agreement. "They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be put out there."

Several media advocacy groups called Friday's exclusion of several news outlets from the press gaggle "alarming."

“President Trump's calls for an end to anonymous sources was alarming. It is not the job of political leaders to determine how journalists should conduct their work, and sets a terrible example for the rest of the world, where sources often must remain anonymous to preserve their own lives,” Committee to Protect Journalists executive director Joel Simon said in a statement. “We are concerned by the decision to bar reporters from a press secretary briefing. The U.S. should be promoting press freedom and access to information.”

Reporters Without Borders in a statement called the administration's move "completely unacceptable and undemocratic in the country of the First Amendment."