The Gateway Pundit’s debut in the White House briefing room on Tuesday caused plenty of consternation among journalists but ended without the hoax-spreading blog’s correspondent, Lucian Wintrich, being called on to ask a question or pulling any of the media-trolling stunts he threatened in a New York Times interview a day earlier.
Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft said at the pre-inauguration DeploraBall last month that he had been informed by Donald Trump's transition team that his site would receive a White House press credential. Though Hoft is an unreliable source of information, this particular claim turned out to be true. He and Wintrich snapped photos in the briefing room on Monday, ahead of Trump's joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the East Room, and Wintrich covered his first news conference in the briefing room on Tuesday afternoon.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not give Wintrich an opportunity to ask a question. It is nevertheless striking, however, that the White House would legitimize the Gateway Pundit by awarding it a coveted press credential. The briefing room has just 49 seats for reporters.
As I wrote in January, the blog routinely spreads false and unsubstantiated information:
During the presidential campaign, Hoft fell for an Internet hoax about a postal worker in Ohio who was supposedly destroying absentee ballots cast for Trump. No such thing happened.
A week before Election Day, the Gateway Pundit published the false claim that Michelle Obama was deleting tweets supportive of Hillary Clinton, even though a simple Twitter search could have debunked the notion.
After the election, Hoft relied on a social media rumor to report that an anti-Trump protest in Austin was “fake” because demonstrators had been bused into town on George Soros's dime. That was completely bogus. The man who started the rumor later told the New York Times that he had connected a lineup of buses to the protest without any knowledge. The buses had actually transported attendees of a technology conference.
Conservative writer and radio host Erick Erickson, who founded the Red State blog, criticized the inclusion of the Gateway Pundit in White House briefings. In a tweet, Erickson recalled the time that Hoft tried to pass off a photo of the crowd at the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2016 championship parade as an image of Trump supporters waiting in line outside a campaign event.
Day 1 of the Gateway Pundit in the briefing room ended without incident. The real test of whether the site plans to take its new access seriously will come when and if Spicer calls on Wintrich.