US news outlets including CNN and the New York Times have said they were barred from an off-camera briefing with Trump's press secretary. The decision drew censure and prompted other media outlets to boycott the meeting.
News organizations including the New York Times, CNN, Politico, BuzzFeed, and the Los Angeles Times were excluded from joining a White House media gaggle on Friday, several media outlets reported.
The briefing had initially been billed as a traditional on-camera daily briefing but was switched to an off-camera press gaggle with restricted access at the last minute.
The informal briefing barred reporters from some outlets that have provided critical coverage of US President Donald Trump's administration, but allowed Fox News, Breitbart and smaller conservative outlets including the One America News Network.
In response to a reporter's question about possible favoritism during the briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the White House had shown an "abundance of accessibility."
"We've actually gone above and beyond, with making ourselves, our team and our briefing room more accessible than probably any previous administration," he said.
'Nothing like this has ever happened'
The New York Times reported that Spicer's aides only allowed in reporters "from a handpicked group" into the meeting.
"Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties," the New York Times' executive editor, Dean Baquet, said in a statement.
CNN reported that some of its reporters attempted to access the gaggle, but were turned around by an administration official who said that "CNN wasn't on the list of attendees."
Criticism from other outlets
Reporters from the Associated Press and the magazine Time chose to boycott the meeting in solidarity with the outlets that were barred entry.
The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) said its board was planning to discuss the matter further with White House staff and urged reporters who were allowed in to share material with those who were not.
"The WHCA board is protesting strongly against how today's gaggle is being handled by the White House," said WHCA president and Reuters reporter Jeff Mason in a statement.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier noted that CNN and the New York Times stood with Fox in 2009 when the Obama administration attempted to exclude the outlet from interview rounds. Baier said the "gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs."
Although it is not uncommon for both Republican and Democratic administrations to brief selected reporters, the meeting was originally billed as a regular briefing that is open to any accredited media.
Trump takes stab at media
Despite attracting a flood of coverage, President Trump's relationship with the media has also been strained. He has sometimes singled out specific outlets and reporters, including a recent post on Twitter that called the New York Times and CNN "fake news" as well as the "enemy of the people."
During a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday, Trump went after media organizations for citing information from US officials who request anonymity - a long-held tradition in newsrooms.
"I'm against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be out there," Trump said. "Let there be no more sources."
rs/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)