Snubbed by Spicer, AP Throws Temper Tantrum

Associated Press lashes out at younger outlet after being passed over at White House briefings

by Jim Stinson | Updated 25 Jan 2017 at 2:21 PM

The old way of doing business in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House is now over — and the Associated Press is not happy about it.

The legendary wire service, founded in 1846, is usually the press secretary’s first pick at White House briefings.

“In the Trump administration, mainstream media is about to see its long-standing media monopoly broken up and they’re petrified.”

But under President Donald Trump’s new administration, White House press secretary Sean Spicer has so far not called on AP for the first question.

On Monday, Spicer called first on a reporter from the New York Post, a conservative tabloid. That brought some murmuring from the mainstream media. Trump and Spicer had disrupted the normal media “pecking order” at White House briefings.

On Tuesday, the pecking order was disrupted again when Spicer called on a LifeZette reporter first. Liberal journalists on Twitter erupted with characteristic indignation.

But the normally staid AP, sensing Trump and Spicer might be establishing a new way, joined the whine-fest and lashed out Tuesday night with an error-filled report on this relatively minor Beltway process story.

Without contacting LifeZette editors or the reporter himself, the AP filed a story on Tuesday night that made clear the press agency doesn't like the new kid on the block.

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"White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took the first question at his briefing Tuesday from a reporter who works for LifeZette, a website founded by Donald Trump supporter Laura Ingraham that published some untrue stories during the 2016 presidential campaign," the AP wrote.

In their zeal to slur LifeZette, the AP got the name of the LifeZette reporter wrong in its initial report.

"The reporter, Jim Stenson [sic], asked Spicer when President Trump would follow through on campaign promises about immigration," the AP wrote in a piece without a byline. "Spicer taking the first question from Stenson [sic] attracted notice because, before Trump, major news outlets were traditionally called upon to open White House press conferences and briefings."

What the AP failed to mention is that it was AP itself that traditionally receives the first question.

The AP then proceeded to recycle tired, debunked charges that had in the past only been thrown at LifeZette by activist bloggers. AP reported LifeZette "released a video, 'Clinton Body Count,' that promoted a conspiracy theory that Hillary and Bill Clinton had ties to the deaths of several colleagues and Democrats."

The video was made in jest, and merely noted that the theories existed. The Associated Press has not been known to question the editorial standards of left-leaning digital outlets like BuzzFeed, which commonly makes viral videos that are not presented as news.

The video page on BuzzFeed Wednesday featured a vulgar video titled "My Most Awkward Penis Story."

With less vulgarity, LifeZette's video team has produced a number of humorous, satirical videos, including "What If You Hired Hillary?" In the new media, that is not dissimilar to newspapers printing comics such as "Doonesbury" or "Peanuts."

However, one thing new and old media strive to do is to be as fair as possible. Normally, that involves contacting the subject of one's story. LifeZette reporters try to contact as many people connected to stories as possible, and are open to talk to anyone.

But the Associated Press did not contact LifeZette editors for its story.

When contacted Wednesday morning by LifeZette's political editor, AP East Coast Entertainment and Lifestyles Editor Shelley Acoca replied they would correct the misspelling. But beyond that, AP would not clarify why LifeZette was not contacted for the story.

Instead, Acoca told LifeZette's political editor the AP would stand by its story.

There is reason AP should not stand by its story. LifeZette has not published false or fake news. In media of all kinds, sometimes errors are made.

AP should know that well.

On Wednesday, the same day it lashed out at LifeZette, AP's correction list contained a bevy of false information, or errors, it had to correct. Some of the errors are quite serious.

"In a story Jan. 23 about sensitive subjects for Asian countries, The Associated Press reported erroneously that communications giant Huawei has been kept out of the U.S. market. It does sell products in the U.S.," the AP wrote.

That's a fairly big business-reporting error. But AP seems to have a bigger problem with criminal justice reporting.

"In a Jan. 19 story about police officers shooting and killing a teenager in Salinas, California, The Associated Press reported erroneously the number of officers placed on leave following the shooting," AP wrote. "Two officers were put on leave, not seven."

For people on the Right, Trump's disruption of the protective and largely liberal mainstream media within the White House itself is long overdue. It was a change that was not likely to have been made by the Establishment GOP presidential candidates of 2016, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla).

It shows Trump is not behaving like a country-club Republican, cozying up to powerful mainstream outlets that have grown increasingly hostile to the GOP agenda.

"It's fantastic the White House is expanding press access to a wider net of media outlets," said Adriana Cohen, a columnist for the Boston Herald, a longtime right-of-center outlet. "It's no secret mainstream media is filled with biased, left-wing political activists ... In the Trump administration, mainstream media is about to see its long-standing media monopoly broken up and they're petrified. The winner? The American people."

Lauren Easton, director of Media Relations for the AP, was given the opportunity to comment on many of the points made in this story. Easton simply replied: "We stand by our reporting."

  1. Associated Press
  2. Donald Trump
  3. Sean Spicer
  4. White House
  5. white house press briefing
  6. White House press corps
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