U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

White House plans to instruct federal agencies to cancel subscriptions to two major news outlets

Incident Details

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Donald Trump speaks to the media in this 2018 file photo. Trump said in a Fox News interview recently that he wanted to keep specific newspapers out of the White House.

— REUTERS/Carlos Barria
October 24, 2019

The White House announced that President Donald Trump plans to instruct federal agencies to not renew their subscriptions to The New York Times and the Washington Post, as reported by the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 24, 2019.

Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told the Journal, “Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving—hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved.”

Grisham did not provide additional details, such as how many subscriptions the federal government currently has, how the White House intends to compel agencies to cancel the subscriptions and when the order would take effect.

The decision came less than a week after Trump said during an interview on Fox News that the Times wasn’t wanted in the White House anymore.

“We’re going to probably terminate that and the Washington Post. They’re fake,” Trump added.

Neither the Times or the Post communications departments responded to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s requests for comment.

Jennifer Jacobs, a senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg, tweeted that the White House followed through with the President’s threat and that Oct. 22 was the last day physical copies of those newspapers were delivered.

Jonathan Karl, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, told The Associated Press, “I have no doubt the hardworking reporters of The New York Times and Washington Post will continue to do quality journalism, regardless of whether the president acknowledges he reads them. Pretending to ignore the work of a free press won’t make the news go away or stop reporters from informing the public and holding those in power accountable.”

Axios reported that sources familiar with the president’s iPhone confirmed that Trump has not deleted the Times and the Post’s cellphone apps, maintaining digital access to the two newspapers.

Trump’s “fake news” rhetoric has trickled down to the local level. The same day the White House said it would instruct federal agencies to not renew subscriptions, county commissioners in Florida denied local librarians’ request for funds to provide their roughly 70,000 patrons with digital access to the Times. The Citrus County Chronicle reported that when the request came before the commission, the officials laughed aloud.

Commissioner Scott Carnahan also called the newspaper “fake news.”

“I agree with President Trump,” he said. “I will not be voting for this. I don’t want The New York Times in this county.”

All five members of the commission agreed to reject the library’s request. The Chronicle reported that it spoke to four of them and commissioners Brian Coleman and Chairman Jeff Kinnard cited concerns that approving the request would lead to requests for subscriptions to more “radical publications.” Coleman also said, “I support President Trump. I would say they put stuff in there that’s not necessarily verified.”

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