Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders bashed “fake news” during a contentious press briefing on Tuesday shortly after encouraging people to watch an undercover video by a far-right provocateur who has repeatedly been criticized for creating misleading videos.
During Tuesday’s White House press briefing, the CNN’s recent retraction of a story that linked a Trump ally with a Russian state-run bank sparked a discussion that soon devolved into a heated back-and-forth between the press secretary and media members about the state of journalism.
Sanders was asked about the story and President Donald Trump’s Tuesday morning rant on Twitter about American media. But she quickly pivoted to the accuracy of other stories by CNN, and referenced a video (presumably one released by notorious right-winger James O’Keefe that shows a CNN producer calling the Russia coverage “mostly bullshit”) and urged people across the country to watch it.
“There is a video circulating now, whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know, but I’d encourage everybody in this room—and, frankly, everybody across the country—to take a look at it,” she said. “If it is accurate, I think it’s a disgrace to all 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, it’s a dangerous place for America.”
Wow. This entire exchange at the WH briefing. Must watch. https://t.co/ZxEEe6e31P
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) June 27, 2017
CNN has not denied the contents of the video and instead stood by the CNN Health producer, John Bonifield, for expressing his “personal opinion.”
📬: "CNN stands by our medical producer John Bonifield. Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it & embrace it."
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 27, 2017
After propping up a video produced by O’Keefe, who has been criticized for editing his videos in a selective fashion meant to portray people in a way that reinforces his narrative, Sanders continued her hot take on the state of American journalism.
“If that is a place that certain outlets are going, particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings—and if that’s coming directly from the top—I think that’s even more scary and certainly more disgraceful,” she said before moving toward the Trump-Russia investigation. “This story gets covered day-in-day-out,” she said. “I think America is, frankly, looking for something better, they’re looking for something more, and I think they deserve something better from our news media.”
Things quickly became heated, with reporters questioning if they shouldn’t cover Russia trying to influence the 2016 election. Sanders, meanwhile, said other topics deserve more coverage and criticized the media’s use of anonymous sources.
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) June 27, 2017
White House reporter Brian Karem, of the Sentinel Newspapers in Maryland, decided that it was enough media bashing and stepped in.
“You are inflaming everyone right here right now with those words,” the reporter said. “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 for four years at least, there is no option other than that. We are here to ask you questions, you are here to provide 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 is right and everybody else is just fake media.’ Everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.”
Sanders said she “disagreed” with Karem.
“First of all, if anything has been inflamed, it’s the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media,” she said. “I think it is outrageous for you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to his question.”