BuzzFeed News pulled its political reporter out of the White House press pool on Wednesday, saying that Trump administration aides in the facility have “largely not worn masks” or abided by other basic coronavirus protections.
The news site’s decision to withdraw journalist Kadia Goba from the press pool came after images showed White House aides standing outside the White House not wearing masks. The pool is composed of a rotating group of journalists who share details of presidential and facility events with their White House colleagues.
“We will not put our reporters at needless risk of getting a deadly disease — and neither should anyone else,” BuzzFeed Editor Mark Schoofs said in a Twitter post.
President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Trump aide Hope Hicks and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany all have tested positive for Covid-19 since last Thursday, along with multiple other people connected to the White House and the president.
Three White House journalists also have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since last week.
BuzzFeed News deputy editor-in-chief Tom Namako, in his own Twitter post wrote: “The Trump administration aides working in the White House have largely not worn masks or adhered to basic precautions around the coronavirus, including in their contacts with the press.”
“The safety of our reporters is paramount,” Namako added.
BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said that the news site is awaiting guidance from the White House Correspondents’ Association on future pool duty rotations, and on how the health of reporters there would be protected.
Politico reporter Meridith McGraw was dispatched to the White House to replace Goba in the press pool.
The White House stakeout cam (POOL 5/NY rem 115) caught a group of ten or so (possibly more) mask staffers at the EEOB gathered in close quarters eating outdoors. Many of these staffers were not wearing masks.
Source: The White House
Goba told The New York Times, “Anyone that knows me understands I’d rather be at the White House working today … but at the same time, there are obvious concerns about working indoors during an outbreak.”
“I don’t want to be knocked out for the rest of the election because I’m sick,” Goba said.
White House spokesman Judd Deere, in an emailed statement to CNBC, said, “The President takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people, as well as those who cover this Administration, very seriously.”
“White House Operations collaborates with the Physician to the President and the White House Military Office to ensure all plans and procedures incorporate current [federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the President is traveling mediately respond to a request for comment,” Deere said.
McGraw on Wednesday afternoon tweeted a photo showing White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern and Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro talking to each other while standing just feet apart in the White House’s north lawn driveway. Neither man appeared to have a mask over his mouth or nose.
The WHCA board, in a statement issued Wednesday, said, “The WHCA has repeatedly pressed the White House at all levels to take steps to improve the safety conditions for journalists working there — and specifically to avoid knowingly putting in unnecessary jeopardy those serving in the pool who must be present as the eyes and ears of the American public.”
“At a bare minimum, that should entail following the administration’s own guidelines on protecting people from the spread of the virus,” the statement said.
The press group also said that since last Friday, “dozens and dozens of tests have been conducted on members of our press corps who were potentially exposed.”
“At this moment, we do not have any additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 among White House journalists nor any indications of journalist-to-journalist spread.”
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