White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not directly deny a CBS News report that she has told friends she plans to quit by the end of the year. Instead, Sanders tried to cast doubt on the report in a familiar way on Wednesday night when she tweeted that “they ran a story about my 'plans to leave the WH' without even talking to me.”
While technically accurate, Sanders's tweet omitted key context. The reason CBS ran a story without talking to Sanders is that she was unwilling to talk. The network's report, which also said deputy press secretary Raj Shah plans to leave, described multiple attempts to seek comment:
Neither Sanders nor Shah responded to repeated requests for comment before this story was published. When reached Wednesday evening, both declined to comment on the record.
Declining to comment is Sanders's prerogative, but her tweet implied that CBS did not do its diligence. President Trump and other members of his team have repeatedly used the same tactic to try to discredit news reports.
“I will say that I never get phone calls from the media,” Trump falsely claimed in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference last year, as he complained about recent reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. “How did they write a story like that in the Wall Street Journal without asking me or how did they write a story in the New York Times, put it on the front page?”
In reality, the Journal had quoted a White House official, and the White House had declined to provide a comment to the Times.
When CNN's Dylan Byers reported last year that counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway had been benched from TV appearances by the White House, he noted that “Conway did not respond to a request for comment.”
Hours after the report's publication, however, Conway appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News show and said, “It would have been nice to have been consulted on that” report — suggesting she had not been given an opportunity to comment when, according to Byers, she had.
Faced with reports it does not like, the White House sometimes casts aspersions on the newsgathering process, instead of issuing direct denials — a strategy that may lend credence to the reports' substance.