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The White House banned several media outlets from attending a press gaggle today, including CNN and The New York Times, which have broken stories on connections between Trump and Russia. While some mainstream outlets were included in the gathering, the White House supposedly hand-picked others, including several right-wing or pro-Trump outlets such as Breitbart and One America News Network. Several prominent journalists noted that they’ve never before seen this sort of press exclusion. Even Fox News’ Bret Baier criticized the decision, noting that news outlets stood with Fox when it was excluded from certain Obama administration interviews and that “a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs.” But on air, Fox News told a different story, with White House correspondent John Roberts downplaying the severity of the situation:
MELISSA FRANCIS (HOST): There are new tensions right now, even new tensions between the White House and the media. Some networks being excluded today from the gaggle. Others were invited but declined. It’s all anybody's talking about right now. Chief White House correspondent John Roberts is there. There is conflicting stuff floating around online. You’re actually there -- tell us what’s going on.
JOHN ROBERTS: What’s the conflicting stuff and I’ll tell you what really happened.
FRANCIS: Who is allowed to be in there and are certain news operations being kept on the sidelines intentionally?
ROBERTS: Well I can tell you that they did not have an on-camera briefing today in the Brady briefing room as they normally do, which typically would see upwards of 70, maybe even 80, people in there, kind of jammed to the rafters. The president had a big speech at CPAC today, so they decided that they were going to let his speech speak for itself and Sean Spicer wasn’t going to have a traditional briefing. So he invited a number of news organizations up to his office to have what's called an off-camera gaggle. It's on the record but off-camera, so we recorded it. And there were probably 20 news organizations that were invited to that and then there were hundreds of other news organizations that were not invited to that. Sean Spicer was asked about it after one network started running a headline that it was excluded from this gaggle. Spicer said that they had a number of requests. There were only so many requests that they could accommodate because there was only so much room. As to their actual motivation, whether it was just a room thing or maybe it was something else, I can’t say at this point because Spicer did not give us that information. I mean, I can speculate, but that would only be speculation on my part.