It’s no secret that the Trump administration (and Donald Trump himself) sees itself as a victim of a malicious mainstream media, when all the media has been guilty of is reporting the truth and of simply asking questions about the many scandals surrounding the administration. Now, it appears, the White House has taken the fight against the media to a brand new low. The administration that constantly complains about “fake news” planted at least one story with the intention of trashing a political reporter. That’s libel.
It all began with a report in Politico by Annie Karni and Alex Isenstadt on Sunday, in which it was reported that amid a frantic search for leaks, Spicer told his staffers to dump their phones for a “phone check.” He also threatened his staffers with more problems if the phone check was leaked to the media. It was. Spicer also reportedly made a deputy communications director cry.
Within the communications office, the mood has grown tense. During a recent staff meeting, Spicer harshly criticized some of the work deputy communications director Jessica Ditto had done, causing her to cry, according to two people familiar with the incident. “The only time Jessica recalls almost getting emotional is when we had to relay the information on the death of Chief Ryan Owens,” Spicer said, referring to the Navy SEAL killed recently in action in Yemen.
Ditto also denied the accounts. “This is 100 percent not true,” she said Sunday after the incident was reported. “Sean and I have a great working relationship.”
Soon after that story was released, an article appeared in the conservative Washington Examiner that smeared Isenstadt, saying he laughed at the dead of the Navy Seal. The Examiner article, of course, cited an unnamed source.
My goodness, this is obvious what’s going on here. https://t.co/c8nF0oYigB
— Steven Ginsberg (@stevenjay) February 27, 2017
“He started laughing about that SEAL,” said one informed official, also upset at Politico’s “insulting” description of Ditto in the story as a “more junior spokesperson.”
The irony is rich from an administration whose leader, on the very same day this story was released, said he wanted to ban journalists from using anonymous sources. If you recall your history, Nixon was taken down because of an anonymous source. It’s an important tool in journalism. Of course, there was that time Trump accused Obama of being foreign born because of anonymous sources who clearly never existed. I guess Trump has a good reason to distrust anonymous sources since he lies behind them.
As for Isenstadt, while he might have a great case for libel, there’s no word yet as to whether he’ll sue.
Featured image via Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images