During his speech at CPAC this week, President Donald Trump once again trotted out his attack on the media. And one of his newest points about the “fake news” was the fairly common practice of using unnamed sources. Now of course serious media outlets have procedures in place to insure that they are publishing facts when they need to rely on quoting unnamed sources. And of course we can all understand why some people may not want to be named when talking with a journalist. But here is what the president said:
“They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name,” he opined. “Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s White House has tried to use anonymity to push back against critical coverage, even as the president condemns the use of anonymity in critical coverage.
The White House responded to the CNN report Friday in a background briefing, meaning that reporters could only attribute information to “senior intelligence officials.”
And that was the result of this little peccadillo:
The officials claimed that [FBI deputy director Andrew] McCabe had told [White House chief of staff Reince] Priebus the Times story was “bullshit,” and the chief of staff asked about how the agency could push back. McCabe told Priebus the FBI couldn’t comment on the ongoing investigation, and Priebus asked if the agency could cite “‘senior intelligence officials’ as saying there’s nothing to the NYT story,” according to officials who spoke at the briefing Friday. FBI director James Comey told Priebus they couldn’t do that.
So unnamed sources are good when you need them…but not when you don’t:
Four days after Priebus suggested the FBI push back on the Times story using anonymous sources ― that is, “senior intelligence officials” ― he criticized the news media for relying on anonymous sources.
“I think that the media should stop with this unnamed source stuff, put names on a piece of paper and print it,” Priebus said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “If people aren’t willing to put their name next to a quote, then the quote shouldn’t be listed, period.”
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Priebus griped that mainstream news outlets were acting like “Washington daily gossip magazines” because of their reliance on anonymous sources.
Interesting dichotomy, wouldn’t you say? And then there is this little item from the story I used in an earlier post about the meeting between the president and the manufacturing CEOS:
(Reporters were permitted to attend the meetings on the condition of not quoting individual executives by name.)
Anonymous or unnamed sources aren’t going to go away. They serve a useful purpose for both the media and the sources. So if the Trump regime is going to rely on their use to get their story out there, they need to quiet down about unnamed sources when they don’t like the news.