President Trump doesn’t want you to believe stories that rely on unnamed sources. Trump tweeted Friday that people should “only accept information” that “has an actual living name on it.” He has tweeted similar things in the past, warning people that when stories “don’t mention names” it’s “very possible that those sources don’t exist” but are “made up” by reporters.
That notion is absurd for a number of reasons. For one, reporters don’t fabricate information (unless you’re at, say, an outlet like InfoWars whose founder the President has praised). But it’s also absurd because the White House often forces reporters to attribute information to unnamed officials.
How the White House regularly provides info to reporters
Trump’s supporters might not know this, but the White House regularly hosts what are called “background briefings.” At those briefings, a senior administration official will brief the press on certain subjects and take questions from reporters. Only catch? The information is often not attributable to the person, but to an unnamed “senior administration official.”
The White House press office also uses this tactic. When reporters ask White House spokespeople questions, it’s not unusual for them to get a response back providing information attributable only to an unnamed “White House official.”
Neither of these practices are new, of course. But Trump’s suggestion that unnamed sources should never be trusted is. The bottom line: When Trump tells people not to trust information that is sourced to an unnamed person, he is effectively telling people not to trust much of the sanctioned information that is coming from his own White House.
Will this change? No answers
So why does the White House provide information to reporters which is NOT attributable to a person with “an actual living name”? That’s unclear. So I decided to ask White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.
I asked Grisham if the White House will now suspend the practice of mandating that sanctioned briefings be on background. Will the White House now put all such briefings on the record?
I also asked Grisham if the White House press office would cease responding to reporter inquiries with information attributable only to an unnamed “White House official.” Will it suspend that practice, and provide all information on the record from now on?
I did not get a response.