WASHINGTON ― Defense Secretary James Mattis broke with President Donald Trump on Sunday, telling reporters traveling with him that he does not think the press is “the enemy.”
On Friday, Trump tweeted that the media “is the enemy of the American people.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized the president a day later, saying “that’s how dictators get started.” Mattis, who joined McCain and other world leaders at a security conference in Munich, Germany, chimed in on Sunday.
It’s a stark contrast to Trump, and the message sent by White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Priebus said reporters should take Trump’s comments about the press “seriously.”
“If the theory is that the press is supposed to be a free forum of information to speak to the American people, I think it ought to be accurate,” Priebus said. “And I think we’ve gotten to a place, John, where the media is willing to run with unnamed sources, apparently false leaked documents to create stories. I mean, we deal with one after the next. If people aren’t willing to put their name next to a quote, then the quote shouldn’t be listed.”
Reporters provide anonymity to sources when they are speaking on sensitive matters that could compromise their positions, or their lives. The Trump White House has done this itself. After Trump issued his executive order suspending refugee resettlement and banning immigration from certain countries, administration officials organized a call with reporters but would only discuss the ban under a condition of anonymity.