While Donald Trump’s campaign is refusing to give press credentials to reporters from The Washington Post and several other news outlets, he says the ban will not remain in effect if he is elected.
At the White House, “it’s a different thing,” Trump told CNN in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
He repeatedly said he would not try to revoke any press credentials if elected president.
“In my case, I’m a person running for office. I rent these large arenas… so I have an option” to deny access to members of the media, Trump said. “When I’m representing the United States, I wouldn’t do that. But I would let people know if somebody’s untruthful.”
Questions have arisen about Trump’s hypothetical treatment of the White House press corps because his campaign has blocked reporters from BuzzFeed, Politico, Univision and other outlets from receiving press credentials.
The credentials provide recognition that a person is attending as a member of the media and provide special access at rallies and other events.
Journalists are not able to attend Trump press conferences without credentials.
On Monday, Trump’s treatment of the press gained new scrutiny when he announced that he was “revoking” The Post’s credentials.
Trump told CNN on Tuesday night that he has not spoken with Post editor Marty Baron about the ban yet.
Others at the newspaper have tried to contact Trump, but he said “I don’t want to say what they are” doing.
When asked what the newspaper would have to do to regain press access, Trump said, “All I want is to be treated fairly.”
He added, “By the way, if I have a bad story, that’s okay, if it’s true. If I deserve it. You know, I’ll deserve bad stories on occasion. Hopefully not too often.”
Asked to name a time he has deserved a “bad story,” Trump declined.
Will Trump continue to give interviews to Post reporters like Robert Costa, whom he said he respects?
“I have not given it any thought at this moment,” Trump said.
Trump’s action against The Post was prompted, at least in part, by a Monday morning web headline that said “Donald Trump suggests President Obama was involved with Orlando shooting.”
“I never said anything like that. I never implied anything like that,” Trump said, adding, “for them to imply it is a disgrace.”
The headline was triggered by this comment that Trump made on Fox News: “Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind… There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.”
On Tuesday night, he explained the “something going on” comment this way: “I’m just asking, why doesn’t he get tougher on the terrorists?”
The Post headline was later adjusted to say “Donald Trump seems to connect President Obama to Orlando shooting.”
The reporter who wrote the story, Jenna Johnson, attended Trump’s Tuesday night rally in North Carolina as a member of the general public. Trump’s audience loudly cheered when he talked about his ban of the “dishonest” Post.
Trump had more positive things to say about the media during the phone interview with CNN right afterward.
“Just so you understand, I have great respect for professionals in your profession, in your business, in your world,” he said. “I have great respect. There are many I have such great respect for. It’s something really to be admired. But when people write false stories; when they write lies; when they write stories that have no bearing on the truth; when they say things that are so wrong, and they know they’re wrong, and they tell me that they know they’re wrong, but they refuse to change them, then I say, they’re not going to come anymore.”
A wide array of news media advocates have criticized Trump for placing restrictions on news outlets, and some have suggested that it could have a chilling effect on other coverage.
In the wake of the Post ban, Brian Smith of the Des Moines Register wondered via Twitter, “Will a Trump White House even have a briefing room?” Eliza Collins of USA Today asked, “What would the briefing room look like under Trump admin?”
Trump’s answer on Tuesday was that it would look the same as it does now — although he asserted that the press corps goes too easy on President Obama.
“Whoever chooses the people that get the press credentials, I wouldn’t even tamper with that, frankly,” he said. “It’s a much different situation than what I’m doing right now.”