Minutes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he’s had to throw in the towel on getting his Trumpcare bill passed before the Fourth of July recess, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders distracted reporters at her briefing by biting them where it hurt.
Kicking off the Q&A portion of today’s on-camera press briefing — the first in a week – she took a question/statement about CNN’s botched and retracted Russian investment fund report. The “question” plugged Breitbart for challenging the accuracy of a the CNN report, leading to its subsequently retraction, apology and sacking of editors who’d worked on the report. In the “question,” it was noted one of the story’s subjects accepted CNN’s apology, but President Donald Trump took to Twitter in the morning to repeat that CNN is “fake news.” Setting up Sanders, the “question” ended with, “Why isn’t CNN’s response good enough for the president?”
And, she was off:
“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,” she complained. “You point to that report; there are multiple other instances where that outlet you referenced has been repeatedly wrong or had to point that out or be corrected.”
Then this happened: Sanders drew the room’s attention to “a video circulating now,” adding “whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know.”
And yet, she said she would “encourage everybody in this room and, frankly, everybody across the country to take a look at it.” Because, she said, “if it’s accurate, it’s a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism. I think we have gone to a place where, if the media can’t be trusted to report the news, then that is dangerous place for America.”
The video she referenced was likely one recently out from Project Veritas conservative activist James O’Keefe. It purports to show CNN Health supervising producer John Bonifield saying, among other things, that the Russia investigation is “mostly bullshit” at this stage, that meddling in other counties is a time honored tradition of many governments, that the ratings have been great for CNN and that “the President is probably right to say like, look, you are witch hunting me.”
But, of course, she’s not saying the video is accurate, because, as she said, she does not know.
“I hope that’s not the direction we’re headed,” she said of the video she does not know to be accurate. “Outlets that have continued to use either unnamed sources, sometime stories with no source at all.”
Then, getting to her actual point, Sanders said, “We been going on this Russia trump hoax for better part of a year now, with no evidence of anything.”
Meanwhile, she groused, “things like the success at the VA barely get covered. They may get covered for an hour at a time, but this [Russia] story is covered day in and day out. Americans frankly are looking for something better, something more, and I think they deserve something better from our news media.”
One reporter in the briefing room asked whether she was suggesting they should not report on stories about foreign countries trying to influence the presidential election.
Sanders responded that they’re expected to report on “actual news, if there is something there.”
“If we make slightest mistake, it is an absolute tirade from a lot of people in this room,” she objected. “But news outlets get to go on, day after day, and cite unnamed sources and use stories without sources. You mentioned the [Anthony] Scaramucci story, where they had to have reporters resign.” she added.
One reporter had had it with Sanders:
“Come on! You’re inflaming everybody right her and right now with those words,” shouted Brian Karem of the Sentinel Newspapers. “This administration has done that as well. Why in name of heaven — any one of us are replaceable and any one of us, if we don’t get it right, the audience has the opportunity to turn the channel or not read us. You have been elected to serve four years at least. There is no option other than that. We are here to ask you questions, and you are 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.’ Everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.”
Sanders was outraged.
“I disagree completely! If anything has been inflamed, it’s the dishonestly that takes place by the news media,” the deputy press secretary said. “And I think it’s outrageous of you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to a question!”
Talk turned to other topics – health care, downwardly revised job growth projections and other matters Sanders had just insisted the press in the room does not cover.
Several times, her responses to the questions were that she has not yet had time to look into that.
After a bit of that. Sanders took refuge in a reporter from Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette, who asked her if she’d like to see other media outlets like the New York Times, review and retract some of their reports on Donald Trump. She allowed as how that would be lovely.
Speaking of Trump being upset about fake news, the Washington Post reported shortly before the press briefing that a framed Time magazine cover from March 2009 featuring Trump and the headline, “Trump is hitting on all fronts … even TV!” that hangs proudly in at least four Trump golf clubs – is a fake. WaPo looked into it and discovered Trump was not on the cover of Time at all in 2009.