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White House escalates war on ‘fake news,’ bans outlets from briefing

The White House blocked several news organizations from attending an informal briefing on Friday, an unprecedented move that came shortly after President Donald Trump reasserted that he was at war with press during a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer banned reporters from the BBC, Buzzfeed News, CNN, the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and Politico from attending a “gaggle,”which is a non-televised briefing. He did, however, give access to a number of other reporters, notably those representing conservative outlets.

The White House said the decision was not made to exclude journalists that have been the most critical of Trump in their reporting in favor of those who offer more favorable coverage. Although those invited included Fox News, Breitbart, One America News Network and the Washington Times — all considered sympathetic to the Trump administration — the approved list also included CBS, NBC, ABC, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Time and the Associated Press.

However, reporters from the AP and Time decided not attending the briefing in protest of the exclusion of other news organizations.

Spicer’s unusual decision to ban particular outlets came on the same that Trump, speaking before the large annual gathering of conservatives at CPAC, labeled reporters as “dishonest” and “fake.” He also denounced the use of anonymous sources in coverage of his administration.

“The fake news doesn’t tell the truth,” Trump said to loud applause at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just south of Washington. “It doesn’t represent the people, it doesn’t and never will represent the people, and we’re going to do something about it.”

In a statement, Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, said, “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.”

Marty Baron, the Washington Post’s editor, called Spicer’s decision to exclude some news organizations from a scheduled briefing “appalling.”

“This is an undemocratic path that the administration is traveling,” Baron said.

President Trump has also announced that he will skip the White House Correspondents’ Assocation Dinner, the first president to so in 36 years.

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