U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Defense One reporters left out of media briefing with Deputy Secretary of Defense in apparent retaliation for reporting

Incident Details

Date of Incident
August 9, 2018
Defense One

Denial of Access

Government agency or public official involved
Type of denial
Government event
August 9, 2018

Reporters from Defense One, a news site that covers global and U.S. national security issues, were not invited to a 2018 media roundtable with the deputy secretary of defense about the launch of the proposed Space Force military project in apparent retaliation for the outlet’s previous reporting.

According to an article published by Politico, the outlet was deliberately left out of the Aug. 9 event after Defense One reporter Marcus Weisgerber published an exclusive story divulging the plans to set up President Donald Trump’s Space Force, even though it had not yet been authorized by Congress.

Weisgerber could not be reached for comment.

Weisgerber’s July 31 story revealed the contents of a draft report prepared by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan for lawmakers. The report was not due for presentation until a week after the Defense One story, which noted that “Defense Department leaders plan to stand up three of the four components of the new Space Force: a new combatant command for space, a new joint agency to buy satellites for the military, and a new warfighting community that draws space operators from all service branches.”

According to the story those three components did not require congressional approval, but defense officials planned to draft a legislative proposal to create the fourth component — an entirely new branch of the military — which would require authorization from Congress.

Kevin Baron, executive editor of Defense One, confirmed to Politico that none of the reporters from his team were invited to the media briefing. Baron said that Department of Defense spokesperson Dana White conceded to him in an email that the reason was the publication by Defense One of its story disclosing the roll out plans for Space Force.

“It seems Defense One was deliberately left out of a briefing in retaliation for our reporting,” Baron said. He added that White said she was unaware of the incident and assured him that the outlet would be included in future press meetings.

When reached for comment, Baron confirmed the information in the Politico article to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

In a statement to Politico, Pentagon spokesperson Charles Summers said, “We are guided by the principles of information and committed to ensuring the accessibility of timely and accurate information to the media, the Congress and the American people.” Summers later added, “There is no retaliation and the notion that someone doesn’t have access or someone is shut out, that’s absolutely not accurate.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].