WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump accused The New York Times on Saturday of inventing a source for a story who, in fact, was a White House official conducting a briefing for reporters under the condition that the official not be named.
Trump tweeted that the Times quoted an official “who doesn’t exist” and referenced a line in the story about a possible summit with North Korea, which read: “a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.”
Said Trump: “WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phoney sources.”
The Times reported in a story about the tweet that it had cited “a senior White House official speaking to a large group of reporters in the White House briefing room.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has repeatedly criticised the use of unnamed sources and labelled information related by unnamed officials “fake news.” Still, his White House regularly arranges briefings with officials who demand anonymity before relaying information, a practice also used by previous administrations.
While Trump asserted the official did not exist, he also took issue with how the Times paraphrased the remarks. When asked at the briefing, which was attended by The Associated Press, if it was possible for the summit to go forward by June 12, the official cast doubt, but did not give a definitive answer.
“I think that the main point, I suppose, is that the ball is in North Korea’s court right now. There’s really not a lot of time,” the official said. “There’s a certain amount of actual dialogue that needs to take place at the working level with your counterparts to ensure that the agenda is clear in the minds of those two leaders when they sit down to actually meet and talk and negotiate and hopefully make a deal. And June 12 is in ten minutes.”
The White House press office invited reporters to the background briefing, both to attend in person or to call-in and insisted that the official not be named. The AP reporter in attendance questioned why the briefing was not on the record — meaning that the official’s name could be used. The official said the president had been talking publicly during the day, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and that the briefing was intended to provide “background context.”