Politics & Government

Trump’s chief of staff uses anonymous sources to bash media for using anonymous sources

By Greg Hadley

ghadley@mcclatchy.com

President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, center, attends a news conference for President Donald Trump, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, center, attends a news conference for President Donald Trump, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. AP

In defending President Donald Trump’s criticism of the media as the “enemy of the American People,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus used a tactic the current administration has hammered the press for using in recent weeks.

In an interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace, Priebus pushed back against the assertion that Trump’s attacks on the press were attempts to suppress a critical news media by saying that Trump was really criticizing stories he deemed to be false.

As evidence of that claim, Priebus cited a New York Times story that cited anonymous sources who said members of Trump’s team had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials for up to a year before his election. Priebus criticized the article, especially for its lack of “direct sources.”

Priebus went on to say that the New York Times article was false.

“They have made it very clear to me that that story in the New York Times is complete garbage,” Priebus said . “And quite frankly, they used different words than that.”

Wallace then interrupted Priebus to clarify who told him the story was false, but Priebus declined to identify them, saying “I’m not going to tell you.”

“Now wait a minute, Reince, you just complained about unnamed sources, you’re using an unnamed source,” Wallace responded.

“Well because I didn’t ask for approval to use their name,” Priebus said. “But I will tell you this: When I say top-level people, I mean top-level people.”

In an interview with CBS News on Saturday, Priebus cited the same New York Times article, as well as a story from the Wall Street Journal, to criticize the press and explicitly called for the media to not use anonymous sources.

“I think that the media should stop with this unnamed source stuff,” Priebus told CBS’ John Dickerson. “Put names on a piece of paper and print it. If people aren’t willing to put their name next to a quote, then the quote shouldn’t be listed.”

In his interview with Fox News, Priebus also called out the media for devoting coverage to problems with the new administration and not spending more time favorably covering its accomplishments. However, Wallace pushed back against this statement, telling Priebus, “You don’t get to tell us what to do.”

“You don’t get to tell us what to do any more than Barack Obama did,” Wallace continued. “Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I gotta say, he never said we were an enemy of the people.”

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