White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had a contentious exchange with reporters on Monday as she defended President Donald Trump’s latest attacks on news outlets that have had to backtrack on several breaking news stories.
Sanders said that there’s “a very big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people, something that happens regularly.”
She was asked for examples of a news outlet that was intentionally spreading false information, and she cited the example of Brian Ross of ABC News.
As news was breaking about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s indictment, Ross reported that Flynn was ready to cooperate with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and testify that Trump, during the campaign, instructed him to speak to the Russians. ABC News then clarified the report, noting that Trump as a candidate asked Flynn to find ways to repair relations with the Russians. That is a far different meaning, and Ross was suspended.
But Trump has railed against the mistake, and even cited it at a campaign rally in Florida on Friday.
Sanders, in accusing media outlets of “purposefully putting out information” they knew to be false, did not cite evidence that Ross was doing so.
She also criticized the media for “taking information that hasn’t been validated, that hasn’t been offered any credibility and that has been continually denied by a number of people, including people with direct knowledge of the incident.”
Over the weekend, Trump criticized Washington Post reporter David Weigel by name and called for the paper to fire him after Weigel tweeted out a picture of an almost empty arena, with the comment “Packed to the rafters.” It was a comment on Trump’s Florida speech. In fact, other photos showed the arena filled up.
Weigel apologized and removed the tweet, but Trump has continued to attack him.
Trump wrote on Sunday, “Very little discussion of all the purposely false and defamatory stories put out this week by the Fake News Media. They are out of control – correct reporting means nothing to them. Major lies written, then forced to be withdrawn after they are exposed…a stain on America!”
Trump, though, has been called out for misleading claims and falsehoods and not correcting them when they are made.
Sanders also was asked whether Trump sees a difference between reporters’ mistakes and Russian disinformation campaigns, which he has said very little. Sanders said, “I haven’t spoken with him about that, but certainly we would take any misinformation like that very seriously. But it’s not something we’re comparing the two on.”