White House press group will keep fighting for on-camera briefings

White House's threats against reporters
White House's threats against reporters

The head of the White House Correspondents' Association said his organization is fighting to get more press briefings back on camera.

Speaking on CNN's "Reliable Sources" Sunday, outgoing WHCA president and Reuters White House reporter Jeff Mason said the organization will "not accept" the recent ban on televising the daily press conferences.

The White House has banned cameras from briefings off and on for weeks, usually announcing the rules for each briefing a few hours ahead of time. Last week, it permitted none to be televised.

Mason said the lack of transparency has become a "very important" issue for WHCA members and other journalists.

"The trend is not going in a direction that we want," Mason said.

He didn't speak to exactly how the association has been pushing the White House to reverse course, but he did say it's not an easy process.

Related: President Trump spoke with reporters for an hour, but it was off-the-record... or was it?

"We are an organization that represents television reporters, as well as print reporter, radio reporters, online reporters, we have a lot of interests that we have to represent," he said.

On top of that, "the White House also is working off it's own calculations about how it wants to deal with the press. So it's a sometimes slow, sometimes unsatisfactory process, but we're working hard on it," Mason said.

Mason's successor, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg, will take over the association in the coming weeks -- and Mason said he has "no doubt" the WHCA will continue to push for more transparency under new leadership.

The ban on cameras from the White House briefing room is just one element of the Trump administration's anti-media stance.

The president has lobbed insults at news outlets he believes are overly critical of him, attacked their credibility, and called the press the "enemy of the American people."

Trump hasn't had a formal, solo press conference in about five months.

Mason's comments Sunday come just days after news broke about another friction between the press and the White House.

He said an official had called him, asking that the WHCA publicly condemn a Politico report about the administration stonewalling the press during Trump's first foreign trip as president.

Related: No Trump press conference at G20

Mason said Sunday that the White House was "upset" by the report and "asked me on behalf of [the WHCA] to release a statement essentially defending the White House. And that would have been, in my view, the same as criticizing the reporter, criticizing the story, and I said, 'No.'"

The story in question and the journalist who wrote it, Tara Palmeri, were both publicly identified for the first time Sunday on "Reliable Sources." Palmeri is a White House correspondent for Politico and a CNN political analyst.

Palmeri, also appearing on the show, said she's "not surprised" at the White House official's actions, and defended her story as "completely accurate."

"We did not get access to senior administration officials [during the trip] until my story came out," she said. "Otherwise it would have literally been the same as watching the president's trip on state-owned television. We were getting our information from foreign officials before we were even getting it from White House officials. "

Mason said he wouldn't go so far as to make a direct link between Palmeri's story and increased press access, but he said that didn't matter.

Criticizing a journalist's work, he said, "that's just not something that we do."

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the White House Correspondents Association had been asked to condemn a report regarding the administration's treatment of the press during President Trump's trip abroad for the G20. In fact, the report was about an earlier trip.


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