Briefly on Wednesday, news rocketed across social media that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was leaving her job, along with deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah.
The “breaking” story was tweeted as a “scoop” by CBS at 8 p.m. ET. The news spread like wildfire. CBS News is among the prestige media, and people report their stories. We did. Approximately 50 minutes later, Sanders posted a response on Twitter.
Does @CBSNews know something I don’t about my plans and my future? I was at my daughter’s year-end Kindergarten event and they ran a story about my “plans to leave the WH” without even talking to me. I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 14, 2018
That response was then included in the original story as an update. To be clear, the only change in the update was the Sanders tweet.
This is still a being treated as a big story despite Sarah Sanders’ tweet. But it’s not a big story. It’s not even a story.
The Press Secretary may have occasionally speculated about what it would be like to leave the White House. How that would work, how transition would go, that sort of thing. Asked about it previously, she has indicated that perhaps after the end of this year she’d be ready to move on. A lot of people who work in media are aware of that. It’s what you call “known”.
But White House aides and sources in the administration say, and said before, that neither Shah nor Sanders has any firm plans, and even if they were seriously contemplating leaving, any possible transition wouldn’t even begin for at least several months, much less be completed, sources tell Mediaite.
Compare all that to this from CBS.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are both heading for the exits, according to sources inside the White House and close to the administration.
“Heading for the exits” is a not just a strong way to put it, it’s a deliberate implication that they are actively seeking to depart based on their dissatisfaction. This is bolstered by the bulk of the article, which is dedicated primarily to listing administration casualties and highlighting perceived chaos within and among the White House and administration staff. Yet even their own report says they don’t know if Raj Shah has immediate plans, and puts Sanders’ exit strategy on a six months plus timeline.
Even worse, take a look at the chyron on their video report.
“SANDERS TO LEAVE”
“PLANNING THEIR DEPARTURES”
Let’s sum this up again.:
The “breaking” story was that two senior members of the Trump administration are unhappy or fed up, as are most people working for Trump, and are therefore actively considering imminent departure.
The actual news? Two people who have inherently non-permanent jobs may some day leave that job, are aware of that eventual outcome, and may have pondered their own future.
Even if you give CBS the benefit of the doubt, six months from now — when Sanders will have been doing this job for nearly two years by the way — is a comically long forecast for writing a story at all, much less characterizing it as “heading for the exits.”
This isn’t fake news. It just isn’t news. That doesn’t mean merely “not newsworthy” but fully “non-existent.” No there there. Sans beef.
We can’t say why CBS ran with this. It did get a huge amount of play and generated hundreds of tweets and retweets, hours of speculation, and of course, trolling of the Press Secretary on social media. But we can’t say that’s why they ran it.
We can’t say it because it would just be too speculative. You know?