In Combative Exchange, WH Accuses Journalists Of Purposefully Misleading

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, in Washington, DC., on December 7, 2017. (Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA ... White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, in Washington, DC., on December 7, 2017. (Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA)(Sipa via AP Images) MORE LESS

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was combative Monday while accusing members of the press of purposefully reporting false information in order to damage the Trump administration.

But when asked to provide an example of purposefully misleading reporting, she cited an erroneous report from ABC News’ Brian Ross. However, there’s no indication Ross’ reporting was purposefully misleading, and Ross was suspended without pay and barred from reporting on Trump in the future by ABC News as a result of the error.

“When journalists make honest mistakes, they should own up to them, sometimes, and a lot of times you don’t,” Sanders responded to CNN’s Jim Acosta, who had contended that journalists can make honest mistakes without earning the President’s “fake news” label.

“But there’s a difference– I’m sorry. I’m not finished,” she continued, over a shouted question. “There’s a big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people, something that happens regularly.”

Sanders continued, contending again that she wasn’t finished: “You cannot say that it’s an honest mistake when you’re purposefully putting out information that you know to be false or when you’re taking information that hasn’t been validated, that hasn’t been offered any credibility and that has been continually denied by a number of people including people with direct knowledge of an instance. This is something that — I’m speaking about the number of reports that have taken place over the last couple of weeks. I’m simply stating that there should be a certain level of responsibility in that process.”

Acosta objected: “Can you cite a specific story that you say is intentionally false that was intentionally put out there to mislead the American people?”

“Sure, the ABC report by Brian Ross,” Sanders replied. “I think that was pretty misleading to the American people, and I think that it’s very telling that that individual had to be suspended because of that reporting. I think that shows that the network took it seriously and recognized that it was a problem.”

What had begun with a remark about Trump’s attacks against the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel — for the reporter’s choice of photo representing the crowd size at Trump’s recent political rally in Pensacola, Florida — had turned into a misleading diatribe by Sanders. She had been asked for proof of purposely misleading reporting, and produced an example, Ross’, that was not purposeful.

Ross was suspended after reporting, based on an unnamed source, that Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to reach out to Russia when he was a presidential candidate, rather than as president-elect. The mistake — which would have represented a significant report — made huge waves, and ABC News’ corrections admitting Ross’ error were slow to arrive.

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