“It was just this morning that Donald Trump said nobody loves the First Amendment more than him,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said at the top of The Lead on Friday, referring to the president’s CPAC screed against so-called “fake news.” He added, snarkily, “Glad we cleared that up.”
Before getting into the details of Trump’s CPAC appearance this morning, Tapper felt he had to address an incident that had just occurred at the White House.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer held an off-camera gaggle with reporters, and while friendly outlets like Breitbart, the Washington Times, and One America News Network were allowed to attend, mainstream outlets like CNN, The New York Times, and Politico were not. (NBC, CBS, and ABC News—all among Trump’s list of outlets that he considers an “enemy of the American people”—were invited, however.)
Tapper described the move as the White House’s attempt to “take punitive action” against news organizations they do not like and said, “This is a wild deviation from basic White House protocol, which normally allows any credentialed news organization to participate.”
“I have to say, even the darkest days of the Obama White House's war against Fox News, the Obama White House never banned Fox from attending any sort of press gaggle or briefing,” Tapper added, echoing comments made by Fox News’ own Chris Wallace this past weekend. “This is clearly President Trump punishing news organizations for providing basic accountability.”
Sara Murray, the White House correspondent who was blocked from attending, noted to Tapper that the main focus of the gaggle was a CNN report that alleged White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus pressured FBI officials to publicly refute claims of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia.
“I don't want to spend too much time discussing this issue because we have a lot of news to cover today,” Tapper told his viewers, “but let's not make any mistake about what’s happening here. A White House that has had some difficulty telling the truth and that has seemed to have trouble getting up to speed on the basic competent functioning of government, and a president who seems particularly averse to any criticism and has called the press the enemies of the American people, they are taking the next step in attempting to avoid checks and balances and accountability.”
“It's not acceptable,” Tapper continued. “In fact, it's petulant, and indicative of a lack of understanding about how an adult White House functions.” He accused the White House of “targeting multiple media organizations” and seeming to “think it can punish reporters for sharing with you facts that they don't like.”
“Don't misunderstand what's going on with that rhetoric,” he said of Trump’s claim that the media “makes up” sources to discredit him, “and with today's action banning various media outlets including CNN and The New York Times. 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.”