White House accused of 'planting fake story to smear reporter who wrote about leaks'

Journalist accused of laughing about death of Navy Seal in Yemen

Peter Walker
Tuesday 28 February 2017 11:20 GMT
Sean Spicer said colleague Jessica Ditt was upset about the Navy Seal's death
Sean Spicer said colleague Jessica Ditt was upset about the Navy Seal's death

The White House has been accused of trying to smear a critical reporter by planting its own fake news.

Politico published an article on Sunday, by journalists Alex Isenstadt and Annie Karni, on an impromptu meeting called by press secretary Sean Spicer to examine aides’ electronic devices for evidence of leaks.

The same article claimed Mr Spicer pushed deputy communications director Jessica Ditto to tears by criticising her work at a staff meeting.

“Spicer harshly criticized some of the work a more junior spokesperson, Jessica Ditto, had done, causing her to cry, according to two people familiar with the incident,” reads the article.

But Mr Spicer, in referencing the Navy Seal killed in Yemen last month, said: “The only time Jessica recalls almost getting emotional is when we had to relay the information on the death of Chief Ryan Owens.”

The father of the same Seal refused to meet Donald Trump and wants an investigation into the botched operation.

Sean Spicer cites 'fake' Atlanta terror attack

Six and a half hours after the Politico report broke, the Washington Examiner published a story about Mr Isenstadt.

It quoted an anonymous source as saying that Isenstadt “appeared dismissive and laughed” at Mr Spicer’s denial and reference to Mr Owens.

“He started laughing about that Seal,” said The Examiner’s "informed official" source.

Politico editor Carrie Budoff Brown accused the White House of anonymously planting a fake story to smear its reporter.

Donald Trump said last week that anonymous sources should be banned.

The 70-year-old billionaire businessman once used unnamed sources to make repeated false claims about Barack Obama.

The Independent has contacted the White House, Politico and The Examiner for further comment.

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