President Trump’s ongoing battle with the media boiled over during the White House press briefing on Tuesday when a reporter tore into Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, for complaining about the use of “unnamed sources” and “the constant barrage of fake news” aimed at the administration.
At the briefing — the first on camera in more than a week — Sanders was addressing a question about the president’s tweeted response to the resignations of three CNN journalists over a retracted report on Russia when she was interrupted by Brian Karem, a reporter from the Sentinel Newspapers.
“If any one of us doesn’t get it right, the audience has the opportunity to turn the channel or not read us,” Karem said, standing near the back of the briefing room. “You have been elected to serve four years at least — there’s no option other than that.”
“We’re in here asking you questions,” Karem continued. “You’re here to provide the answers and what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, ‘See, once again, the president’s right, and everybody else out here is fake media.’ And everybody in this room is trying to do their job.”
“I disagree completely,” Sanders shot back. “I think if anything’s been inflamed, it’s often the dishonesty that takes in the news media. And I think it’s outrageous for you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to his question.”
Earlier, Sanders was asked why the swift resignations of CNN’s reporters did not seem to appease Trump, who pointed to them as purported proof the networks peddles “fake news.”
“I think it’s the constant barrage of fake news directed at this president probably that has garnered a lot of his frustration,” Sanders replied before quickly pivoting to a new video — released by conservative provocateur James O’Keefe — that appears to show a CNN medical producer saying the network’s coverage of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election is “mostly bulls***.”
The deputy press secretary encouraged viewers to seek out O’Keefe’s footage even though she was unsure of its accuracy.
“There’s a video circulating now — whether it’s accurate or not I don’t know — but I would encourage everybody in this room and frankly everybody across the country to take a look at it,” Sanders said. “I think if it is accurate I think it’s a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism. I think that we have gone to a place where if the media can’t be trusted to report the news, then that’s a dangerous place for America.”
The video also captures the producer discussing an internal network meeting during which CNN President Jeff Zucker purportedly told staffers to refocus their efforts on the Russia probe.
“If that’s coming from the top, I think frankly that’s more scary and more disgraceful,” Sanders said. “I hope that’s not the direction we’re headed.”
Sanders also scolded reporters for the use of unnamed sources.
“If we make the slightest mistake, if the slightest word is off, it’s just an absolute tirade from a lot of people in this room,” she said. “But news outlets get to go on day after day and cite unnamed sources.”
Earlier Tuesday, Sanders relayed a statement to pool reporters asking about the White House’s surprise warning that Syrian President Bashar Assad may be planning another chemical attack on its citizens.
She asked that the statement be attributed to “a White House official.”
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