White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders got into a heated exchange with a reporter at a June 27 press briefing.
The reporter, Brian Karem from The Sentinel, accused Sanders of “inflaming” people by criticizing media. She responded by saying that it is the media inflaming people by being dishonest.
The exchange started with a question from Breitbart reporter Charlie Spiering regarding a June 27 tweet from President Donald Trump: “Wow, CNN had to retract big story on ‘Russia,’ with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!”
Wow, CNN had to retract big story on “Russia,” with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2017
CNN published an article on June 22 that, using an unnamed source, suggested some nefarious ties between a Russian investment fund and Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of investment firm SkyBridge Capital who formerly served on Trump’s Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee.
The network deleted the article the next day, after Breitbart ran a story criticizing the piece’s veracity. Later that day CNN apologized to Scaramucci. On June 26, three CNN staff involved with the story resigned.
Spiering asked Sanders why Trump still called CNN “fake news” after the network retracted the story, apologized, and fired the people responsible, asking, “Why isn’t their response good enough for the president?”
Sanders replied, “I don’t know that the response ‘isn’t good enough’ for the president. I think it’s the constant barrage of fake news directed at this president, probably, that has garnered a lot of his frustration.”
Sanders pointed out that it was not the first time CNN had published such stories based on similarly shaky sources that had been wrong or needed to be corrected.
Then she referred to a tape released recently by the nonprofit Project Veritas where a CNN health producer John Bonifield says the theory about collusion between Russia and the Trump lacks substantial evidence and that the network continues to push the story because it garners ratings.
Sanders said that the tape, if accurate, is a “disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism” and that the public deserves “something better from our news media.”
Spiering asked Sanders if the president expects them not to report on foreign countries interfering in U.S. elections, to which she responded that it’s no problem if it is “actual news, if there’s something there.”
She expressed hope the media would cover more issues that the administration is focusing on—job growth, tax reform, deregulation, and health care—and “making sure that it’s actually accurate, that it’s honest.”
Sanders then complained that the media demand a much higher level of accuracy from the administration than they hold themselves to.
“If we make the slightest mistake, the slightest word is off, it is 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, use stories without sources.”
Sentinel reporter Brian Karem reacted forcefully, saying “any one of us is replaceable” and that people can solve the problem of media inaccuracies by not watching them, while the administration “gets to serve for four years, there’s not option other than that.”
He then suggested Sanders’s comments will strengthen the views of people who see media as untrustworthy.
“What you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at and say, ‘see, once again the President’s right and everybody else out here is fake media’,” he said.
Sanders responded by suggesting people are more convinced by the media’s own blunders than by her talking about them.
“If anything has been inflamed, it’s the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media,” she said, adding, “I think it’s outrageous that you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to his question.”