President Donald Trump Wednesday (May 9) tweeted out the results of a survey on how much of the news about him is negative and included a veiled threat against mainstream media that had journalistic circles buzzing.
Asked about that threat at the daily White House press briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the White House was "very committed to a free press" and that both she and the President demonstrated that "every single day," a statement that seemed at odds with the President's tweet.
"How is the suggestion of taking journalists press credentials away advocating for a free press," the reporter countered. "Those two do not go together."
Sanders essentially repeated her first answer, but added that "at the same time, the press has a responsibility to put out accurate information." She pointed to the "outrageous" claims in the New York Times that the new secretary of state was AWOL when he was flying to Korea to help free prisoners, and a Washington Post story that the First Lady was not living in the White House.
Asked if the President had expressed any concerns about major companies giving money to someone close to him at the same time they had major business before the government--in the case of AT&T the proposed Time Warner merger the President had vowed to block--Sanders said she "had not heard" the President express any such concerns.
"Some may excuse the president’s inflammatory rhetoric about the media, but just because the president does not like news coverage does not make it fake," said Margaret Talev, president of the White House Correspondents Association in a statement on its web site. "A free press must be able to report on the good, the bad, the momentous and the mundane, without fear or favor. And a president preventing a free and independent press from covering the workings of our republic would be an unconscionable assault on the First Amendment."
Talev told CNN she did think it was rhetoric--rather than threatened policy--given that about the same time the story was being reported the association was working with the White House to coordinate press coverage of the return of three North Korean prisoners. But it was clearly disturbing rhetoric to journalists.