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White House won’t criticize BuzzFeed over Russia hack report

Earnest said the Obama administration believes it’s best to let each media outlet decide its own policies. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

January 12, 2017

White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday refused to say whether it was a mistake for BuzzFeed to publish an unverified report alleging close and disturbing ties between Russia and President-elect Trump.

Trump’s team, Nancy Pelosi and even many in the press criticized BuzzFeed for putting the document out there. But when asked if it was a mistake, Earnest said the Obama administration continues to believe it’s best to let each media outlet decide its own policies.

“What I’m just suggesting is that, your news organization was the first organization to report on this,” he said to a CNN reporter. “I don’t have any insight into what sort of editorial decision-making process was implemented to make that conclusion, but I’m confident that there was one.”

“I assume there was a similar process at BuzzFeed, that reached a different conclusion,” Earnest added. “But I guess this is my point: independent editorial decisions made by independent news organizations should be made independent of government influence.”

Earnest said that while the Obama administration clearly opposed the media’s decision to run stories about Democrat emails allegedly obtained and leaked by elements in Russia, it always knew it was up to the independent press to decide how to handle it.

“On principle, the administration deeply respects and will protect the right of independent news organizations to make their own decisions,” he said. “Doesn’t mean that we agree with all of them.”

Earnest also seemed to warn the incoming Trump administration that it should get used to the idea of the press writing stories it doesn’t like.

“This president has been in a situation in which he has been criticized in an utterly false, baseless way,” he said. “I’m of course referring to the president’s birthplace.”

“There were a wide variety of the president’s critics that were suggesting and propagating conspiracy theories that somehow the president wasn’t born in the United States, but that he was the object of some grand conspiracy that’s still hard to put together even now as you think about it,” Earnest said.