White House bars major news outlets from informal briefing

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News organizations including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Politico were blocked from joining an informal, on-the-record White House press briefing Friday.

The Associated Press chose not to participate in the briefing after White House press secretary Sean Spicer restricted the number of journalists included. Typically, the daily briefing is televised and open to all news organizations credentialed to cover the White House.

"The AP believes the public should have as much access to the president as possible," Lauren Easton, the AP's director of media relations, said in a statement.

On Friday, hours after President Donald Trump delivered a speech blasting the media, Spicer invited only a pool of news organizations that represents and shares reporting with the larger press corps. He also invited several other major news outlets, as well as smaller organizations including the conservative Washington Times, One America News Network and Breitbart News, whose former executive chairman, Steve Bannon, is Trump's chief strategist. When the additional news organizations attempted to gain access, they weren't allowed to enter.

The White House said it felt "everyone was represented" by those in the pool and the invited organizations.
"We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool. Nothing more than that," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

When asked by a reporter attending whether he was playing favorites, Spicer said the White House had "shown an abundance of accessibility," according to an audio recording of the briefing later circulated by the pool.

The pool included Reuters, Bloomberg, CBS, Hearst Newspapers and CBS Radio. Others in the briefing were Fox, NBC and ABC. Bloomberg reported that its reporter was unaware of the exclusions until after the briefing.

John Roberts, Fox's chief White House correspondent, told anchor Shepard Smith on the air Friday that Fox supports complaints being filed by the White House Correspondents Association and pool TV networks.
"You can speculate, Shep, that there might be some extenuating circumstances as to why those people were not invited, we're going to look into that further...." Roberts said.

In a statement, the correspondent association's president, Jeff Mason, said the group was "protesting strongly" against how the briefing was handled by the White House.

CBS News said in a statement that it was the pool's radio and TV outlet Friday.
"We recorded audio of this event and quickly shared it out of an obligation to protect the interests of all pool members," the news division said.

When Spicer was asked by a reporter at the briefing whether he was playing favorites, he said he "disagreed with the premise of the question," according to the audio.

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