WH Correspondents Association awards CNN, NYT for ‘fact based’ reporting on Roger Stone raid and Pelosi ‘clap back’


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The White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) on Tuesday gave awards to CNN and The New York Times for reporting and photography that many see as politically motivated against the Trump administration.

“This year’s winners represent the best of the kind of journalism America needs now more than ever — fact-based reporting that holds those in power accountable without fear or favor,” said WHCA president Jonathan Karl, who recently complained about reporters having to sit too close to each other during a bill-signing ceremony, and who was scolded in March by President Donald Trump during a coronavirus briefing.

While the stories that won awards were all critical of the Trump administration or Republicans, there were some that stuck out as being more controversial than others.

For instance, CNN won the “MERRIMAN SMITH MEMORIAL AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN PRESIDENTIAL NEWS COVERAGE UNDER DEADLINE PRESSURE FOR BROADCAST” for filming the early-morning no-knock armed FBI raid on Roger Stone at his Florida residence in January 2019.

“CNN’s reporting on the Roger Stone arrest began a month earlier, with a clue about a court scheduling anomaly. Then came unusual grand jury activity. Then an odd, packed suitcase wheeled by one of the prosecutors in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Stone,” the WHCA noted in the award. “It culminated early in the morning of Jan. 25, 2019, when a CNN producer and a photojournalist, staked outside of Stone’s home in Ft. Lauderdale, captured the 5 a.m., no-knock raid by the FBI of the former confidant of President Donald Trump.

“CNN’s viewers saw the raid unfold in real-time, the product of a team of reporters, producers and photojournalists tracking the investigation over months, connecting the dots and scooping the rest of the press corps,” the WHCA continued. “They even scooped Stone’s own lawyers, who only found out when CNN called for a comment. In addition to the exclusive video, the team produced a compelling, supportive package that explained the charges against Stone. On deadline.”

But — did CNN ‘scoop’ everyone, or was the network tipped off about the raid in advance by someone with the bureau or the Justice Department?

That’s a question Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) demanded to know days after the raid.

The acting attorney general at the time, Matthew Whitaker, also found it disturbing that CNN had a crew on-site to film the arrest — an oddity he did not attribute to good investigative journalism since the indictment was sealed, per DoJ protocol.

“It was deeply concerning to me as to how CNN found out about that,” Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee in February 2019.

“The court had a sealed indictment that after Mr. Stone’s arrest was unsealed. Consistent with all its prior indictments, the DOJ’s basic policy for transparency in criminal cases is that the indictment is posted on the DOJ website, probably after it is unsealed, and then media outlets were notified,” said Whitaker. “I do not know of any other special counsel’s office notice or DOJ notice to media outlets regarding Mr. Stone’s indictment, or his arrest.”

Others were also highly critical of the award.


The WHCA also handed out an award to New York Times photographer Doug Mills for his picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) clapping disrespectfully at President Trump during his State of the Union Address last year.

“Doug Mills’ photograph of Nancy Pelosi and President Trump at the State of the Union Address is a visual representation of one of the most contentious political relationships in recent memory. The Speaker of the House lets the nation know exactly what she thinks of Trump as she claps with outstretched arms, tilting her head with a smirk across her face,” the WHCA noted in its award.


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