Donald Trump says he told Sarah Huckabee Sanders "not to bother" with White House press briefings

"Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News!" Trump tweeted

By Shira Tarlo
Published January 22, 2019 6:17PM (UTC)
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Donald Trump; Sarah Huckabee Sanders (AP/Salon)

President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday said he told White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders "not to bother" with giving formal press briefings from the podium any longer as he sought to cast blame on the media for the increasingly rare briefings.

"The reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the 'podium' much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately, in particular certain members of the press," the president tweeted. "I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway! Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News!"

Under the Trump administration, press briefings have become a rare occurrence, and are often marked by heated exchanges between Sanders and the members of the media. During one briefing in December, Breakfast Media's Andrew Feinberg shouted at Sanders, "Do your job, Sarah!" As Politico noted, "Sanders and Trump have instead opted for less formal Q&A's from different areas of the White House or while boarding Marine Force One, the president's helicopter. And even during those exchanges, Trump has often expressed hostility to questions from the media."

Sanders has been called out for lying by members of the media throughout her tenure in the West Wing. In June, Sanders was widely criticized for her refusal to explain the inaccurate statements she made following the revelation that members of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign had secretly met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in Trump Tower. At the time, CNN's John Berman blasted the press secretary for spewing falsehoods about who authored the official White House response to the controversial Trump Tower meeting that included Donald Trump, Jr., the president's eldest son.

"Maybe she's OK with lying. There's no question that she spread lies at this point," Berman said at the time. "Whether or not she was told the truth, I guess we don't know. But she spread a lie, and she is the White House press secretary. And she spread a lie — and allowed it to hang out there for months."

Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post asked Sanders at the time, "How are we supposed to know what to believe? How can we believe what you're saying from the podium if his [Trump's] lawyers are saying it's entirely inaccurate?"

In August, Sanders offered a "correction" after incorrectly stating that Trump had created more than three times as many jobs for African-American workers in his year and a half in office than former President Barack Obama did in his entire eight years. Sanders claimed in her correction that, although her timeline was off, the job numbers were correct.

As Salon's Rachel Leah previously wrote, "Sanders' correction was a rare moment admission of error from the Trump White House and specifically from the communications department, which has repeatedly spun out falsehoods in the face of clear contrary evidence — from Sanders incorrectly claiming that diversity visa immigrants are not vetted to her declaration that 'multiple news outlets' reported that Obama had allegedly ordered wiretapping of Trump as a candidate."

Earlier this year, Sanders said it "bothers" her that people think she misleads the media. She told the New York Times in May that she tries to deliver the "best and most accurate information at the time that I can" and feels a responsibility to be accurate.

"One of the few things you have are your integrity and reputation," Sanders said in the interview. "There's a difference between misspeaking or not knowing something than maliciously lying."

Last month, Sanders revealed to Politico that she hopes to be remembered for being "transparent and honest" when her tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue comes to a close.

Shira Tarlo

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