White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest got into it with reporters today regarding anonymous sources. Specifically, a Washington Post story by David Nakamura. Sourcing in the story is not evident until graph four when the reporter cites “former government officials.”
The gist of the story isn’t favorable for the White House. It concerns President Obama and his aides being forewarned of a border crisis a full year before it happened.
“The lede is hooked entirely to anonymous sources,” said Earnest, who made fun of the Washington Post for not showing up to today’s briefing. “That’s a fact.”
Nakamura disagrees. “Not true,” he wrote on Twitter. And then the twist of the knife: “After saying WaPo border story was based on anonymous sources, @PressSec then quotes budget statistics that were in the story. #UAC”
After reporters bristled at anonymous sourcing not being seen as valid considering the amount of this type of sourcing that goes on in Washington on a daily, weekly basis, Earnest walked back the notion that it wasn’t valid, just that it shouldn’t hold the same weight as named sourcing. “I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t run their story,” he told a room full of reporters in today’s briefing. “It’s not my place. …They’re entirely entitled to doing that.”
But, he added, appearing to give seasoned reporters a journalism 101 lesson,”It’s important for those kind of quotes to have greater weight than just anonymous sources.”
Considering how tight-lipped this White House is, probably not the best advice for these reporters.