During a tense White House press briefing, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and The Sentinel newspapers journalist Brian Karem got into a heated exchange while she answered a question about President Donald Trump‘s response to CNN retracting a story and the resignation of three journalists. Karem accused Sanders of inflaming the incident and noted that the administration has rarely corrected itself.
The exchange starts at about three minutes into the video, seen below.
Sanders was asked why Trump continued to call CNN “fake news,” even after it retracted a story about a Trump associate’s alleged ties to Russia and three journalists who worked on the story resigned. Anthony Scaramucci, the Trump ally named in the original story even accepted CNN’s apology, but Trump continued to bash CNN on Twitter. He even expanded his criticism to include other mainstream news organizations. “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News,” the president tweeted.
The White House spokeswoman was asked if CNN’s repose was good enough for the president. Rather than just answering the yes-or-no question, Sanders said that it’s the “constant barrage of fake news” that has “garnered a lot of his frustration.” She then told everyone to watch a Jakes O’Keefe video that allegedly shows CNN producer Jaohn Bonifield calling the Russia story “mostly bulls**t right now.”
“Whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know,” Sanders said of the O’Keefe video. “But I would encourage everybody in this room and frankly everybody across the country to take a look at it. I think if it is accurate, it’s a disgrace to all of media.”
She then criticized the media for publishing stories with anonymous sources and alleged that stories with no sources at all are published. She also listed topics that the administration doesn’t think the media is covering enough.
Then, Karem interrupted Sanders, saying that she was “inflaming” to everyone watching. He also accused the administration of not correcting itself when he’s made a mistake.
“Sarah, that’s — come on. You’re inflaming everybody right here and right now with those words,” Karem said. “This administration has done that as well. Why in the name of heavens — any one of us, right, are replaceable, and any one of us, if we don’t get it right, the audience has the opportunity to turn the channel or not read us. You have been elected to serve for four years at least. There’s no option other than that. We’re here to ask you questions, you’re here to provide the answers, and what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, see, once again, the President is right and everybody else out here is fake media. And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.”
“I disagree completely,” Sanders said. “I think if anything has been inflamed, it’s the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media. And I think it is outrageous for you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to his question.”
Karem looked like he was about to respond, but he gave up when Sanders moved on to another question.
“So, when we are wrong we correct ourselves but when has POTUS ever done that? We are not FAKE news,” Karem tweeted after the briefing.
Who Is Brian Karem?
Karem is a reporter for the Montgomery County and Prince George’s Sentinel newspapers. As his Twitter bio notes, he’s an Emmy-nominated producer, writer and a best-selling author. He’s been at the Sentinel Newspapers since March 2004.
In 1990, The New York Times reported that Karem faced jail time when he was working at KMOL-TV in San Antonio. He refused to reveal the name of three people who helped him get an interview with a man suspected of murder in the death of a police officer. Karem was sentenced to six months in prison, even though he did provide prosecutors with all of the material from his interview except the names of the sources who helped him arrange the interview.
Karem was also in the news in 1992, when he had a run-in with President George H.W. Bush. As AJR reported at the time, Karem asked Bush to respond to criticism of a drug summit they were attending. Bush said the press conference was meant for questions for the Latin American leaders there, but Karem insisted that Bush answer the question.
From 1993 to 1997, Karem was a reporter for America’s Most Wanted. His 2009 book Marked For Death was published by Harper Collins. His other books include 1992’s Shield The Source, which was about his experiences with protecting his sources; 2001’s Innocent Victims, about a teenager sexually abused by a pedophile he met online; and 2002’s A Guidebook for Parents – How to Read the Early Signals of Low Self-Esteem, Addition, and Hidden Violence in Your Kids, written with John Kelly.
“I don’t like bullies and I don’t like the entire institution of the press and free speech being castigated for no other reason than we either get stories wrong – which happens, and it should be then responsibly corrected – or because we report news the president doesn’t like – which seems to happen even more often than getting stories wrong,” Karem wrote in an essay for Playboy, explaining his outburst.
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