A Sunday Politico story about President Trump's press secretary cracking down on media leaks included a claim that the top-ranked woman in the White House communications office cried in frustration.
In researching the article headlined "Sean Spicer targets own staff in leak crackdown," reporter Alex Isenstadt asked Spicer if deputy communications director Jessica Ditto got emotional. Spicer dismissed it.
Politico reported it thus:
"Within the communications office the mood has grown tense. During a recent staff meeting, Spicer harshly criticized some of the work a more junior spokesperson, 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 in action in Yemen."
Spicer was referring to the Navy SEAL killed Jan. 28 in an anti-terrorism mission in Yemen, the first military death under Trump.
Unsaid, according to White House officials, is that Isenstadt appeared dismissive and laughed at Spicer's answer.
"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."
Isenstadt referred Secrets to Politico spokesman Brad Dayspring who said that the claim the reporter laughed at the reference to Owens' death is a "patently false characterization of the conversation."
The question to Spicer was one of many from Isenstadt about the crackdown on leaks. A Politico official argued that Isenstadt "chuckled" at Spicer's heated reaction to the questions, not the death of the SEAL.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org