White House Retaliates Against Reporters by Planting Smear Stories
Every presidential administration fears leaks, but few are as dedicated to stopping the flow of information as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
An important scoop by Politico reporters Alex Isenstadt and Annie Karni revealed that Spicer has resorted to "random phone checks of White House staffers, overseen by White House attorneys."
The White House communications team could have simply denied the story. But what fun would that be? Instead, six hours after the Politico article, the conservative Washington Examiner—that bastion of fair and balanced—published an article smearing the Politico reporters headlined, "Claim: Reporter laughs at Trump aide's emotion over SEAL death."
The Examiner claimed that Isenstadt had mocked Spicer's emotional response to Navy SEAL Ryan Owens' death in a botched raid in Yemen.
In addition to the reports of random phone checks, the Trump administration was upset that Isenstadt and Karni reported that Spicer made deputy White House communications director Jessica Ditto cry after criticizing her work at a staff meeting. When asked for comment, Spicer told Politico, "The only time Jessica recalls almost getting emotional is when we had to relay the information on the death of Chief Ryan Owens."
Politico editor Carrie Budoff Brown quickly fired back against the Examiner story on Twitter, and accused the Trump administration of anonymously planting it in an effort to distract from the initial reports of random phone checks.
Reporter writes story WH doesn't like/disputes. WH anonymously plants false story about reporter. https://t.co/2ZGue3uxfz
— Carrie Budoff Brown (@cbudoffbrown) February 27, 2017
Trump called for a ban on anonymous leaks last week, claiming they contribute to "fake news." If Budoff's accusation of planting stories is true, apparently his ban doesn't extend to his own White House.