News outlets excluded from White House press secretary's gaggle

ByAdam Kelsey
February 24, 2017, 5:36 PM

— -- Multiple news outlets were excluded from a White House gaggle with press secretary Sean Spicer Friday afternoon, according to reporters present, sparking criticism from the White House Correspondents' Association and other observers.

The move comes amid President Donald Trump's ongoing battle with many news organizations, which he has characterized as "fake news" and the "enemy of the American People," an assertion which he doubled down on today during the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The gaggle, which took place in Spicer's office, was being held in lieu of a traditional briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, which seats 49 reporters but is often filled with others who line the sides and back of the room.

The outlets invited to join Spicer today included the Washington Times, One America News Network and Breitbart News, as well as television networks including ABC, CBS, Fox News and NBC, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, among others.

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Politico and CNN were among the group excluded from the meeting. Upon learning of the restrictions, reporters from the Associated Press and Time boycotted the gaggle.

The session was recorded and ultimately distributed to the White House press pool, including those excluded.

ABC News' Cecilia Vega challenged Spicer about the move, questioning if the outlets were excluded because the White House did not like their coverage.

"Because we had a pool and then we expanded it," Spicer responded. "And we added some folks to come cover it."

Vega noted that there was space in the room for other outlets.

"I understand that there are way more than six that wanted to come in. We started with the pool and we expanded it," Spicer responded. "I think we've 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."

In a statement, the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) blasted the move.

"The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House," said Jeff Mason of the WHCA board. "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."

Earlier in the day during a speech at CPAC, Trump attacked the media for reporting what he labeled as "fake news," and said he wanted the press barred from using unnamed sources, in particular. This, despite his administration's use of background briefings and insistence upon the exclusion by the media of officials' names when reporting on the information from the briefings.

Trump did note, however, that he is a supporter of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

"I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody," said Trump.

White Houses' taking on the press or specific outlets is not unprecedented.

The Obama administration battled with Fox News, excluding anchor Chris Wallace from a round of Sunday show interviews with Obama in 2009.

“We simply decided to stop abiding by the fiction, which is aided and abetted by the mainstream press, that Fox is a traditional news organization,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the deputy White House communications director, according to a New York Times report from the time.

Fox was also excluded from a network pool round robin interview with former pay czar Ken Feinberg on Oct. 22, 2009, but ultimately relented when other organizations boycotted.

According to a Mediaite report at the time, the Treasury Department denied that Fox was excluded.

And former President Richard Nixon was privately recorded in the Oval Office in 1972 saying "the press is the enemy," according to a Times report. The tapes were later released.

ABC News' Katherine Faulders, Alexander Mallin and Justin Fishel contributed to this report.

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