Prompted by questions from two conservative media outlets, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders spent much of Tuesday’s press briefing lambasting the media and accusing news outlets of pushing “fake news” about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
The questions centered around the resignation of three CNN staffers after the outlet published and then retracted a story claiming that Anthony Scaramucci, a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team, had met with a Russian investor. CNN has apologized to Scaramucci, who tweeted that he accepted the apology.
During Tuesday’s briefing, Sanders called on Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering, who asked about the CNN story and why the network’s response wasn’t “good enough” for the president, who had tweeted about the controversy earlier in the day.
“There’s a video circulating now, whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know, but I would encourage everybody in this room, and, frankly, everybody across the country to take a look at it.”
Sanders seized the opportunity to rail against “the constant barrage of fake news directed at this president” and falsely claim that CNN frequently uses “no sources” in its reporting. She also encouraged reporters to watch an unverified video from Project Veritas, conservative activist James O’Keefe’s frequently discredited sting operation, that purports to show a CNN producer calling the network’s coverage of the Russia investigation “mostly bullshit” but “good for business.”
“There’s a video circulating now, whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know, but I would encourage everybody in this room, and, frankly, everybody across the country to take a look at it,” Sanders said. “I think if it is accurate, I think it’s a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism. I think that we have gone to a place where if the media can’t be trusted to report the news, then that’s a dangerous place for America.”
“We’ve been going on this Russia-Trump hoax for a better part of a year now, with no evidence of anything,” she added.
Spiering pushed back on Sanders, asking if she really expects news outlets to not report on “a foreign country trying to influence the presidential election.”
“I don’t think it’s expected that you’re not to report on, again, actual news, if there’s something there,” she said, before listing a number of topics she said she believes the media is ignoring, such as health care and tax reform.
Sanders was then challenged by reporter Brian Karem, who accused her of “inflaming” the public perception that the media is all “fake” news. Sanders called Karem’s accusation “outrageous.” (Read about that exchange here.)
Sanders later called on Jim Stinson of LifeZette, the website founded by conservative pundit Laura Ingraham.
“Given the news about CNN’s erroneous story about Scaramucci, does the White House believe there are other Russia-related stories from major outlets that have not been retracted and are just as false?” he asked, setting up Sanders to again question the media’s credibility.
“This administration disagrees with all of the stories that claim that the president and his campaign colluded with Russia in any capacity,” she replied. “I think he’s been extremely clear that he believes that’s a hoax and certainly something that’s not true and didn’t take place.”
Stinson then asked Sanders if she believes news outlets “have an obligation” to review anonymously sourced stories in light of the CNN retraction.
“I think that’d be a great idea,” she said.
The line of questioning drew criticism from other White House correspondents.