The White House's decision to selectively bar certain news outlets from a Friday afternoon off-camera briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer has been decried as "undemocratic and unacceptable;" "chilling;" and "totalitarian."
Not to mention "stupid."
2. This is stupid because it's so out in the open and transparent. It makes Trump look weak, petty, sensitive and guilty.
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) February 24, 2017
CNN called it "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."
And New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet declared in a statement: "Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties. We strongly protest the exclusion of the New York Times and the other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest."
In addition to CNN, the Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico, outlets that were blocked from the so-called "gaggle" reportedly included The Hill, the BBC, the Guardian, and BuzzFeed. Right-wing outlets Breitbart and One American News were allowed in, among others.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the exclusion "yet another disturbing example of the Trump [administration]'s contempt for the vital role a free press plays in our democracy."
Indeed, the incident played out just hours after Trump called the media an "enemy of the people" at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland.
Other responses poured in online from lawmakers, journalists, and media watchdogs—some warning of the decision's implications, others cautioning against allowing the news to be a distraction from larger matters:
Attacks on the free press go against the founding values of our nation. https://t.co/tIWqqigb69
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 24, 2017
A taxpayer funded WH just went out of its way to exclude outlets from a press briefing. This is as close to violating free press as it gets.
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) February 24, 2017
Every time the press is obstructed, by this administration or any other, it is to prevent you from knowing how you are governed. Every time.
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) February 24, 2017
Let me reiterate: White House is blacklisting outlets for printing the truth. This is chilling. Our bill of rights isn’t up for debate.
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) February 24, 2017
And now, the topic of the evening is the media outlets excluded, not the Priebus interactions w FBI + question of open investigation.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 24, 2017
Never mind the WH press gaggle thing. Russia.
— Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) February 24, 2017
Breaking News... This post will be updated...
Just hours after President Donald Trump launched his latest rhetorical (and predictable) attack on the press during a speech to right-wing activists, CNN and other outlets have reportedly been blocked from attending Friday afternoon's press briefing at the White House.
BREAKING: White House blocks news organizations from press briefing https://t.co/I1gnu8toRJ
— CNNMoney (@CNNMoney) February 24, 2017
The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico were also excluded from the meeting, which is known as a gaggle and is less formal than the traditional Q-and-A session in the White House briefing room.
The Associated Press and Time magazine boycotted the briefing because of how it was handled. The White House Correspondents Association is protesting.
The conservative media organizations Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One America News Network were allowed in.
The cable news outlet reported that its correspondents who were barred entry were offered "no immediate explanation" from White House staff about why they had been denied.
The move, described as "unprecedented" by reporters and journalism experts, comes a day after CNN reported that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had attempted to get the FBI to push back against reporting by several outlets, including the Times and CNN, that there had been consistent communications between members of the Trump campaign and transition teams and Russian government officials.
In a statement, the White House Correspondents' Association decried the move.
"The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House," said Jeff Mason, the group's president. "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."
During his earlier speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Trump repeatedly attacked the news media and called reporters supplying negative or critical coverage of his administration "the enemy of the people."