Much less than a week just after President Donald Trump publicly attacked journalists for applying anonymous sources in stories about his administration, it appears the president turn out to be one particular himself on Tuesday — at least briefly.
Three television anchors, shortly after attending from a White House lunch meeting with the president, emerged to report news on the president's belief that the time might be right for immigration reform. Fox News Channel's Bret Baier, and CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper, attributed the news to a "senior administration official." ABC's George Stephanopoulos, in a tweet, sourced it to a "WH official."
Right after getting asked about the apparent contradiction, White Residence Press Secretary Sean Spicer mentioned in an e mail that "the president's comments on that topic are on the record."
And minutes soon after that, ABC's David Muir, who was also in the meeting, posted a story on the network's net web site quoting Trump by name saying the president had told news anchors and correspondents at the White Residence lunch that "the time is right for an immigration bill, as long as there is compromise on both sides."
The episode illustrated the administration's issues in squaring a longtime practice of anonymous sourcing in Washington politics and journalism with the president's anger at stories that displeased him. Trump has decried "fake news" and called journalists "enemies of the persons." Friday, in a speech prior to a conference of conservatives, he mentioned that reporters "should not be permitted to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be put out there."
It's not unusual for presidents to invite journalists for private meetings like Tuesday's lunch prior to a significant speech, like Trump's before Congress on Tuesday. In the previous, they have been considered off the record — meaning absolutely nothing mentioned at the meeting could be reported publicly.
Just before Trump publicly became the source of the immigration news, a White House official acknowledged to The Related Press that it came from the meeting with news anchors. The AP was not included in the meeting.
Fox News' Chris Wallace, who was also in the meeting, reported on Shepard Smith's afternoon show that he saw a "kinder, gentler Donald Trump" throughout the lunch.
"It was in this context that a senior administration official mentioned that the president thinks that the time was correct for immigration reform," Wallace mentioned. "That came as kind of a surprise."
Immediately after some additional discussion of nuggets from the "senior administration official," Smith could not take it any longer.
"So they give us anonymous sources following they rail at us for employing anonymous sources?" he mentioned. "That is hilarious."
Replied Wallace: "Don't shoot the messenger, Shep."
Smith said that Trump "desires people today to feel there is a key war against individuals who report information that he doesn't like. But when you're in the space with him, it is all great. When you happen to be on Television, he vilifies you and treats you as if you're performing something wrong when you're truly performing every little thing correct. That is annoying."
AP Chief White Property Correspondent Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.
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