“You’re inflaming everybody right here, right now with those words.”
The heated relationship between the Trump administration and the press boiled over Tuesday when a White House reporter clashed with deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over so-called “fake news.”
Brian Karem — the executive editor of the Montgomery County and Prince George's Sentinel newspapers, which serve the Maryland suburbs — accused Sanders of “inflammatory” comments to the press.
“We're here to ask you questions,” Karem said. “You're here to provide the answers and what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, 'See, once again, the president's right and everybody else out here is fake media,' and everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.”
His passionate outburst came after the White House spokeswoman repeatedly assailed the news media for what she said was unfair coverage of the Trump administration. She cited journalists' use of unnamed sources and continued coverage of the “Russia/Trump hoax.”
“If we make the slightest mistake, the slightest word is off, it is just an absolute tirade from a lot of people in this room,” Sanders said, “but news outlets get to go on, day after day, and cite unnamed sources, use stories without sources.”
But it was when Sanders referenced the resignation of three CNN employees following a retracted story on Russia that Karem became frustrated.
“Come on. You're inflaming everybody right here, right now with those words. This administration has done that as well,” he said, referring to the use of anonymous sources.
“Why in the name of heavens — any one of us are replaceable and any one of us, if we don't get it right, the audience has the opportunity to turn the channel or not read us,” he said. “You have been elected to serve for four years at least. There's no option other than that.”
For her part, Sanders said she disagreed completely with Karem's assertions.
“I think if anything has been inflamed it's the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media, and I think it is outrageous for you to accuse me of inflaming a story when I was simply trying to respond to his question,” she said.
Karem, who also writes a regular political column for Playboy magazine, told BuzzFeed News he spoke up during the briefing because he became frustrated “over the tainting all of us with the brush of 'fake news' and total disrespect for what we do.”
“When we make mistakes, we issue corrections, people get fired, there are consequences. I've yet to see any consequences for this administration,” he said.
The exchange quickly lit up social media, with many praising Karem for his highly unusual televised confrontation with a White House official.
Karem also quickly gained tens of thousands of new Twitter followers.