Towards the end of Wednesday short White House press briefing — just the fourth in the past month — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether the president had an opinion on his supporters viciously heckling CNN correspondent Jim Acosta at Tuesday’s Tampa campaign rally. This somehow led to a weird tangent in which the press secretary cited a long-debunked claim about Osama bin Laden to seemingly imply the media is to blame for 9/11.
“Does the president encourage the support of people that showed up last night in these QAnon and Blacks for Trump fringe groups?” David Martosko of the Daily Mail asked. “And secondly, is the White House willing to say, right now, in view of what happened to one of our TV colleagues last night that it is wrong for his most vocal supporters to be menacing towards journalists doing their job in a situation like that or any situation?”
After Sanders said that the president “condemns and denounces any group that would incite violence against another individual and certainly doesn’t support groups that would promote that type of behavior” regarding QAnon and others, she took on the second part of Martosko’s question. And it got dangerously bizarre really quick.
Stating that while POTUS doesn’t support violence against any group, he does think the media “holds a responsibility.” Noting that they “fully support a free press,” Sanders went on to say that “the media routinely reports on classified information and government secrets that put lives in danger and risk valuable national security tools” and that it has happened in this and past administrations.
“One of the worst cases was the reporting on the U.S.’s ability to listen to Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone in the late ’90s,” she declared. “Because of that reporting, he stopped using that phone and the country lost valuable intelligence.”
She added that it is “now standard to abandon common sense ethical practices” in journalism and while they condemn violence against the press they ask that “people act responsibly and report accurately and fairly.”
Yep, you read that right. The president’s top spokesperson implied that thousands of people died in 9/11 due to leaks by the media. Worse than that, she was straight-up spreading fake news to make her point that those the media somehow deserve to be violently attacked, as Martosko pointed out right after the briefing.
— David Martosko (@dmartosko) August 1, 2018
After Sanders invoked 9/11 to provide cover for Trump supporters’ hostility towards a CNN reporter, journalists took to Twitter to express their disgust.
Sarah Sanders just came pretty close to blaming 9/11 on the press
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) August 1, 2018
Sarah Sanders seemed to get very close to blaming the media for 9/11… https://t.co/PQ9pT0Wuc9
— Jackson Proskow (@JProskowGlobal) August 1, 2018
About @PressSec's claim that news reports in the late '90s thwarted US monitoring of Osama bin Laden's phone…The claim is false. And it has been repeatedly debunked.
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) August 1, 2018
Oh nothing, just Sarah Sanders casually blaming journalism for 9/11. https://t.co/ClR4cGVuA8
— Brian Fitzpatrick (@BrianFitz_) August 1, 2018
Watch the clip above, via CNN.