White House press secretary Sean Spicer slammed the media during an invite-only briefing on Friday that excluded several major news outlets, and claimed that various news outlets botched their coverage of a series of recent exchanges between Reince Priebus and deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Most of the 40-minute briefing between Spicer and a dozen outlets, including the Washington Examiner, focused on what the White House has deemed "inaccurate" reports by the New York Times and CNN. Citing anonymous sources, both outlets ran stories that said the administration wrongfully asked FBI officials to set reporters straight on President Trump's relationship with Russia.
The Times claimed Priebus had asked McCabe during a private meeting to refute stories about ties between Trump aides and Moscow, a request the FBI allegedly rejected due to its policy of not commenting on pending investigations.
"When you look at the reporting the New York Times did, it was all background sources," Spicer said. "I think there comes a point that if you're going to make such serious allegations, you need to at least get somebody on the record."
The briefing, which at times grew contentious, came hours after Spicer provided reporters with a timeline of Priebus' exchange with McCabe and later, FBI Director James Comey. Spicer said McCabe and Trump's chief of staff discussed the media's coverage on Feb. 15, during which they spoke about a Times story that had focused an FBI investigation into Trump's relationship with Russia.
"The deputy director came to the chief of staff of the White House and literally said the story is false," Spicer said Friday afternoon. He added that Priebus wasn't going to "say nothing and just stare" at McCabe when that happened, "which is what some of the folks in this room think he should have done."
Instead, Priebus asked McCabe if he could refute misleading reports publicly, which Spicer said was in accordance with Justice Department guidelines on interagency discussions and "public affairs."
"They came to us and said, 'this story is not true.' We said, 'great, can you tell people that?" Spicer recounted. He noted that "it's possible" Priebus spoke with White House counselor Doug McGahn after his conversation with McCabe.
Spicer also blasted reporters for failing to publish separate stories after the Times' story was "disproven."
"You've got this story that comes out from the New York Times with unnamed sources [and] at some point, isn't the story that the accusations that came out have been disputed?" he asked one reporter in the room. He noted that House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif. "came out and said the [Times] story is demonstrably false."
The top White House spokesman said that going forward, reporters should refrain from making "serious allegations" unless they have someone doing so on the record.
Spicer's briefing itself quickly became controversial, as it excluded outlets like the New York Times, CNN, the Hill, BuzzFeed and the Los Angeles Times.