Three months ago, Sean Spicer said that banning media outlets from presidential press conferences is something that dictatorships do. Yesterday, the White House did just that.

At some point prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump, angered by what he perceived to be negative press coverage, banned reporters from the Washington Post, Politico, and Buzzfeed from his campaign events. When asked this past December by Politico’s Jake Sherman whether or not we might expect to see the same kind of aggressive vindictiveness toward the press under the Trump administration, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that would never happen. “There’s a big difference between a campaign, where it is a private venue, using private funds, and a government entity,” Spicer told Sherman. “And I think we have a respect for the press when it comes to the government. That is something that you can’t ban an entity from; conservative, liberal or otherwise. I think that’s what makes a democracy a democracy, versus a dictatorship.”

Well, yesterday, the White House announced that reporters from the New York Times, CNN, and Politico would be banned from the day’s scheduled briefing with Sean Spicer, the man who, as I just noted, recently said that keeping reporters from press events would signal a shift away from democracy and toward dictatorship.

And, as you might imagine, this isn’t sitting well with people. The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the press corps, has issued a statement of protest, and both the Associate Press and Time pulled their reporters from the briefing in a sign of solidarity. The White House defended the move, saying that this was a less formal press event, and that the agencies who were not invited would still be represented by press pool journalists who would be sharing their reports. The New York Times, as you might expect, saw it differently. New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet wrote, “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.” It should be noted that, while the Times was left out, conservative media organizations like Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One America News Network were allowed to participate.

Interestingly, at the same time this was playing out yesterday, Donald Trump was on the stage at CPAC, ranting about “fake news,” and referring to certain news organizations as the “enemy of the people.”

Veteran newsman Dan Rather, I think said it best. These actions, he said, “must be seen as a real and present threat to our democracy.”

Here, by way of Ken Vogel, is video of Sean Spicer agreeing with Rather.

For what it’s worth, this most recent move on the part of the Trump administration shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. Trump himself said on January 18 that he would be selecting which journalists were able to cover the White House. And, now, he’s apparently testing the waters, seeing if he might be able to intimidate America’s press into submission.

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  1. Cassandra
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    “testing the waters” is the key concept here.

    If the Trump administration had simply cracked down on the press on day one, everyone would have been justifiably alarmed and there would likely have been a huge backlash. Instead, they’re turning the screws slowly, little by little … hoping most people won’t notice, or be concerned enough to do anything about it.

    That strategy seems to be working.

    At the rate we’re going, what’s left of our individual and civil rights, press freedom, right to dissent, etc., seem to evaporating. I suspect that soon, political life in the U.S. will have much more in common with Russia or China that with other “western” democracies.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Trump announced this evening that he would not be attending the annual correspondents dinner.

  3. Anonymous
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t planning to watch but now I will.

  4. Posted February 25, 2017 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    The president of the White House Correspondents Association responded to Trump’s announcement that he would not be attending.

  5. charlieRomeo
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    It’s not a surprise that fascist Trump is a coward and a traitor who should be denigrated and reviled daily for at least the next 4 years.

  6. KKT
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    From Reddit:

    In case anyone is keeping track, the last time a President skipped a WHCD was Reagan in 1981, due to him still recovering from his assassination attempt earlier in the year. He addressed the WHCD via speakerphone from Camp David.

    Before that, Carter skipped in ’78, citing exhaustion, and Nixon skipped in ’72, though First Lady Pat Nixon attended in his place.

  7. Rick Talbot
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    If any of the trump minions are still supporting this pseudo, psychotic, dictator, they have officially lost whatever is left of their minds. This is out of control. This is the United States, not some third world country with a fourth rate dictator. Very sad…

  8. Meta
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Dan Rather to Chris Matthews:

    “A lot of this is designed to throw off the coverage of the really important stories and have us talk about such things as press access. But make no mistake about this, this is going to continue. President Trump thinks he is winning a so-called information war. We’ll see as it goes along.”

  9. Posted February 26, 2017 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

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    […] get invited into the White House Press Corps, they feel compelled to stand at the podium Sean “That’s What Dictatorships Do” Spicer delivers his lies from, and flash the new hate symbol associated with their movement, which, in […]

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