BuzzFeed pulls White House reporter over coronavirus concern, saying Trump aides largely not wearing masks

  • BuzzFeed News pulled its political reporter out of the White House press pool.
  • Trump administration aides in the facility have “largely not worn masks” or abided by other basic coronavirus protections, the news site said.
  • President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Trump aide Hope Hicks and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany all have tested positive for Covid-19 since last Thursday. So have three White House journalists.



a group of people standing in front of a building: Members of the White House press corps work outside the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.


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Members of the White House press corps work outside the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.

BuzzFeed News pulled its political reporter out of the White House press pool on Wednesday, saying that Trump administration aides in the facility have “largely not worn masks” or abided by other basic coronavirus protections.

The news site’s decision to withdraw journalist Kadia Goba from the press pool came after images showed White House aides standing outside the White House not wearing masks. The pool is comprised of a rotating group of journalists who share details of presidential and facility events with their White House colleagues.

“We will not put our reporters at needless risk of getting a deadly disease — and neither should anyone else,” BuzzFeed Editor Mark Schoofs said in a Twitter post.

President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Trump aide Hope Hicks and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany all have tested positive for Covid-19 since last Thursday, along with multiple other people connected to the White House and the president.

Three White House journalists also have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since last week.

BuzzFeed News deputy editor-in-chief Tom Namako, in his own Twitter post wrote: “The Trump administration aides working in the White House have largely not worn masks or adhered to basic precautions around the coronavirus, including in their contacts with the press.”

“The safety of our reporters is paramount,” Namako added.

BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said that the news site is awaiting guidance from the White House Correspondents’ Association on future pool duty rotations, and on how the health of reporters there would be protected.

Politico reporter Meridith McGraw was dispatched to the White House to replace Goba in the press pool.



a group of people standing around a table: The White House stakeout cam (POOL 5/NY rem 115) caught a group of ten or so (possibly more) mask staffers at the EEOB gathered in close quarters eating outdoors. Many of these staffers were not wearing masks.


© Provided by CNBC
The White House stakeout cam (POOL 5/NY rem 115) caught a group of ten or so (possibly more) mask staffers at the EEOB gathered in close quarters eating outdoors. Many of these staffers were not wearing masks.

Goba told The New York Times, “Anyone that knows me understands I’d rather be at the White House working today … but at the same time, there are obvious concerns about working indoors during an outbreak.”

“I don’t want to be knocked out for the rest of the election because I’m sick,” Goba said.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

McGraw on Wednesday afternoon tweeted a photo showing White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern and Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro talking

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Concern rises for White House residence staff as their workplace emerges as a virus hot spot

His uncle, John Johnson, was also a butler, and the flouting of safety protocols that has made the White House a coronavirus hot spot has also put the career civil servants who work where President Trump and first lady Melania Trump live at risk of exposure. It has Allen puzzled and incensed.

“I would be begging my dad and uncle, ‘You need to get the hell up out of there,’ ” he says. “It’s like, ‘Get out! Get out!’ ”

The White House residence staff members are largely Black and Latino, and often elderly, according to Kate Anderson Brower, who compiled a trove of interviews with former staffers for her book, “The Residence.” Numbering 90-some full-time ushers, butlers, housekeepers, valets, florists, engineers and cooks charged with maintaining the historical house and creating a comfortable home free from prying eyes, they work more closely with the first family than perhaps anyone else in that building. These employees often keep their positions for decades and work for administration after administration, viewing their job as holding up the integrity of the White House regardless of who is in office.

“They’re supporting an institution, not a singular presidency,” says Anita McBride, who was Laura Bush’s chief of staff and is a White House historian for American University.

Discretion, too, is a key component of a residence staffer’s job. Speaking out about anything, including working conditions, can be a cause for dismissal. The New York Times reported Monday that two members of the housekeeping department who tested positive were told to use “discretion” when discussing their diagnosis.

As the residence staff has been caring for the first family, a chorus of concern has started to rise among former White House and residence staff members about whether the first family and this administration are taking care of those civil servants in return. For months, this administration has treated the White House as a bubble immune to the coronavirus, ignoring guidance from their own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by refusing to wear masks, failing to maintain social distance and relying on rapid coronavirus tests that have been shown to miss infections. With the president, the first lady, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, top aide Hope Hicks, former counselor Kellyanne Conway and an ever-growing number of administration officials testing positive for the coronavirus, that bubble has burst. Now others are trying to give voice to those working behind the scenes in that building who cannot speak on their own behalf.

“I know that people in there are scared,” says Sam Kass, head chef for the Obamas for six years. “I know that they are concerned about their own lives and their families, and feel very torn about balancing their responsibilities to their country, as they see it, and putting themselves in harm’s way.”

On Sunday, the chorus rose on behalf of the Secret Service, a growing number of whom have been voicing, in unprecedented fashion, outrage over the president’s seeming indifference to the health risks faced by

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Confusion, concern infiltrate White House as Trump heads to hospital


Mark Meadows speaks to reporters.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks to reporters about President Trump’s positive coronavirus test outside the West Wing. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Updated


Inside an eerily quiet White House Friday morning, a barebones staff scrambled to contain the fallout from a nightmare scenario: President Donald Trump and his wife Melania hobbled by the coronavirus in the final weeks of the 2020 campaign.

Trump spent the morning quarantined in the residence with his wife, calling key senators and consulting in-house doctors about his symptoms, which included fatigue and cold-like congestion, according to a senior administration official. But he remained silent publicly throughout the morning and afternoon, causing some concern. And by Friday evening, he was being transferred to Walter Reed hospital for the coming days “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the White House.

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As the president’s diagnosis ricocheted through the West Wing, daily meetings were converted to conference calls and White House officials were advised not to come in. Among those who arrived at work anyway, many wore masks as they moved around the executive complex — adopting a preventative measure they previously dismissed. Vice President Mike Pence, who would take over for the president if he becomes incapacitated, remained at home but soon announced he would resume his campaign schedule after testing negative.

At the Trump campaign’s headquarters in the Washington suburbs, a morning meeting was canceled and aides were advised by Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien to stay home if they felt they may have been exposed to the virus themselves. Some staffers who were in close proximity to the first family at the presidential debate earlier this week nevertheless reported for work, while others left the office shortly after receiving Stepien’s memo.

“There’s a pretty good number of people here,” said one senior campaign official working from the Arlington, Va., campaign office Friday morning.

Campaign officials and Trump aides who were contacted by the White House Medical Unit as part of contact tracing measures were asked to report for testing early Friday afternoon, while others who believed they may have been at risk of exposure were left to procure coronavirus tests on their own.

The Friday confusion was largely reflective of the haphazard protocols White House officials have grown accustomed to in the last few months, as the president has crisscrossed the U.S. to rally with thousands of maskless supporters and used the executive complex to host large ceremonies flaunting social distancing guidelines. Some officials expressed concern about the startling lack of contingency planning, particularly after witnessing the scramble that ensued earlier this summer when Pence spokesperson Katie Miller, who is married to the president’s top policy adviser, tested positive immediately after traveling with the vice president and interacting with other staffers.

“I wish I could tell you they have this good protocol that’s been in play for months, but it seems to ramp up and down

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Confusion, concern infiltrate White House after Trump’s positive test

At the Trump campaign’s headquarters in the Washington suburbs, staffers who were in close proximity to the first family at the presidential debate earlier this week nevertheless reported for work. Some ended up staying, while others left.

“There’s a pretty good number of people here,” said one senior campaign official working from the Arlington, Va., campaign office Friday morning.

Campaign officials and Trump aides who were contacted by the White House Medical Unit as part of contact tracing measures were asked to report for testing early Friday afternoon, while others who believed they may have been at risk of exposure were left to procure coronavirus tests on their own.

The Friday morning confusion was largely reflective of the haphazard protocols White House officials have grown accustomed to in the last few months, as the president has crisscrossed the U.S. to rally with thousands of maskless supporters and used the executive complex to host large ceremonies flaunting social distancing guidelines. Some officials expressed concern about the startling lack of contingency planning, particularly after witnessing the scramble that ensued earlier this summer when Pence spokesperson Katie Miller, who is married to the president’s top policy adviser, tested positive immediately after traveling with the vice president and interacting with other staffers.

Trump may have contracted the virus after interacting with his aide Hope Hicks, a top White House communications official who tested positive Wednesday night. But it has since come out that people present at other Trump events over the last week, including a Rose Garden ceremony on Saturday introducing Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, also tested positive for Covid-19.

As White House officials and campaign advisers spent Friday working to design a message and overhaul their plans for the remaining month before the November election, television appearances were canceled and campaign events postponed. Trump was notably silent on Twitter.

One Republican close to the Trump campaign said aides were expected to hold a meeting Friday afternoon to begin planning the president’s schedule in light of the new limitations, which could severely impact both official events — including Oval Office signing ceremonies and Rose Garden speeches — and campaign appearances that Trump had planned for the coming weeks.

Prior to his positive test, Trump had been using the White House for large, celebratory set-piece events, such as his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention and a commemorative ceremony for a peace accord between Israel and two Middle Eastern countries.

“The president has to keep a minimal schedule and see how he feels,” this person said, adding that “it’s way too early to be able to tell” whether Trump will be able to participate in virtual campaign events or the second presidential debate, which is set to take place Oct. 15 in Miami.

It’s possible Trump will resort to the kinds of campaign activities he participated in before he returned to the campaign trail in June for outdoor rallies and smaller coalition gatherings. White House officials who have previously tested positive for

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Campus Notebook: Unattended gun in Capitol bathroom need not concern the public, Capitol Police argued

“Plaintiff’s disclosure to the CQ Roll Call reporter also did not address a matter of public concern because it could not be ‘fairly considered as relating to any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community,’” Scindian wrote. Scindian also argued Breiterman was not protected by the First Amendment because she spoke to the reporter in her official capacity.

Scindian said the photo — of an unattended firearm in a public building with some of the most integral individuals in the nation’s government — was not something the public need be concerned about. She argued, in part, that because the gun was found in a restricted area within the Capitol complex, the incident should be kept within the department and concealed from public consumption.

“The information Plaintiff provided to the reporter concerned an internal Department matter that did not implicate public interest,” Scindian wrote. “The gun that was discovered in a CVC bathroom on January 29, 2015 was located in a restricted area of the facility. Only authorized personnel would have access to that area. The gun was quickly recovered by USCP officials and its owner was identified in short order.”

Roy Gutterman, a Syracuse University professor who specializes in First Amendment law, disagrees with the department’s contention.

“I can’t imagine a clearer case of a matter of public interest than finding a gun in a Capitol Hill bathroom, whether it’s a visitors center or a secured hallway,” Gutterman said. “You can’t get any clearer than that as far as a matter of public interest.”

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