Making the rounds today seems to be the idea that certain organizations of the press have been “barred” from attending a briefing at the White House. Here are a few sample headlines I saw today:
CNN and Other Media Outlets Blocked From White House Gaggle (Mediaite.com)
White House blocks news organizations from press briefing (CNN)
White House blocks CNN, BBC, New York Times, LA Times from media briefing (The Independent, UK)
CNN, New York Times, other media barred from White House briefing (The Washington Post)
The White House Has Officially Blocked Some News Organizations From A Press Briefing (Bustle.com)
I want to make clear that I am not a Trump supporter. No portion of the Trump campaign appealed to me, and I was in a complete state of disbelief when the results came in from the general election, and still had a shred of hope it might not happen before the electoral college confirmed it. I’m still in a whirlwind of slow realization (a slow whirlwind? yes) that Trump’s presidency is actually real.
However, this story has been spun pretty much hardcore right from the beginning.
Could there, in fact, actually be a way to explain this, that isn’t outrageous?
1. According to this interview by CNN almost immediately after it happened, the reporter herself who was supposedly snubbed, described how the so-called blocking actually took place, quote:
“We lined up. We were told there was a list ahead of time, which is sort-of abnormal, but we put our name on the list and when we went to enter, I was blocked by white house staffer who said we were not on the list for this gaggle today.”
So, the press wasn’t banned from entering, necessarily, but just that by name the people prevented from entering weren’t on the list to enter. A greater context of the list hasn’t been presented in a clearer way that I’ve been able to tell, so basically all of the reports of being banned or barred are purely superficial interpretations about the nature of the list. Until we can get a better look at the list or the motive behind the list, then only we can just speculate before any reasonable conclusions could be drawn.
2. According to the Associated Press here, the limited pool was selected from people who distribute to the larger media pool.
Considering the entire audio of the briefing is available to listen to in its entirety, freely, (here), is a testament toward that fact — the smaller reporting pool did, in fact, report to the larger pool. The smaller pool was all that was necessary. The big whiners who didn’t get let in didn’t need to be in, because the distribution of the audio is plainly available to everyone, so whether the people who stamp their feet in for not getting in doesn’t matter because the pool that did get in did what it was supposed to do.
3. Only at the very last second, seemingly when people are shuffling around and getting up to leave, a woman asks whether the seeming selectivity of who could attend might be interpreted as favoritism, Sean Spicer (who is the White House Press Secretary, who held the briefing), made a joke saying, “You’re my favorite,” in the middle of the question, and the people in the room laughed at it. The question itself wasn’t scathing, and the mood seemed out of curiosity and not harshly accusatory, unlike how all of the articles about the slight were interpreted well after the fact.
4. There is a *great* interview conducted by CNN (here) with Ari Fleisher, who was the press secretary for George Jr back in the day. Ari essentially says No, no, you’re blowing this all way out of proportion, and that past white-houses had done this kind of thing all the time.