There have only been two White House press briefings in 2019. Should Sarah Sanders hold another, she can expect to spend it in the hot seat. The White House press secretary is under fire from journalists in the wake of the release of the Mueller report. It confirms that she made statements from behind the podium that weren't grounded in fact. At issue are two comments made in May 2017. In the first, she asserted that "we've heard from countless members of the FBI" who were glad James Comey was out. A day later, she said, "I've heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision."
- In an interview with Mueller's office, she called the first statement a "slip of the tongue."
- As for the second comment, she said it was made "in the heat of the moment" and acknowledged to Mueller's team that it was "not founded on anything," per the report.
- Sanders has gone on the defense. In an appearance on Hannity on Fox News Thursday night, Sanders said, "Look, I acknowledged that I had a slip of the tongue when I used the word 'countless,' but it's not untrue. ... A number of both current and former FBI agents agreed with the president. James Comey was a disgraced leaker who tried to politicize and undermine the very agency he was supposed to run."
- She doubled down Friday, saying much the same thing on ABC's Good Morning America. "Actually, if you look at what I said, I said the 'slip of the tongue' was in using the word 'countless.' ... James Comey was a disgraced leaker and used authorization to spy on the Trump campaign despite no evidence of collusion. I stand by the fact, George—" George Stephanopoulos interrupted, pushing back: "Why can't you acknowledge that what you said then was not true?" She replied, "It wasn't a scripted talking point. I'm sorry that I wasn't a robot like the Democrat Party that went out for two-and-a-half years and stated time and time again that there was definitely Russian collusion."
- Other journalists weighed in: "So there it is—"not founded on anything"—a remarkable admission from a government official who is paid to communicate accurately with the public," writes Brian Stelter for CNN.
- In an opinion piece for NBC News, Kurt Bardella argues for her ouster while contextualizing the position: "The job of White House press secretary is more than just a spokesperson advocating for the president of the United States. ... The press secretary serves as a living, breathing reminder of the free press’ constitutionally protected right to question the most powerful office in the world."
- Among the many lessons to emerge from this revelation is how little regard Team Trump has for reputations," writes Erik Wemple for the Washington Post. "They thought nothing of trashing the man Trump had suddenly decided to fire, regardless of the facts."
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