US media pushes conspiracy theory, decries ‘exclusion’ from Trump-Lavrov meeting
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with US President Donald Trump was widely anticipated by the media, and while it happened behind closed doors, it was the Russian Foreign Ministry that first publicized Lavrov’s visit to the Oval Office to the world.
What made the photo shoot even more intriguing was the attendance of Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak – a key figure in the investigation of the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.
After the pictures taken by a TASS correspondent became public, American journalists were quick to look for conspiracy theories.
These photos of Trump-Russia meetings are courtesy solely of Russian MFA because no US press allowed in. pic.twitter.com/PI4cSPIqvG— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) May 10, 2017
State-run Russian "media" allowed to cover Trump meeting with Russian Foreign Minister. US media not so. Reality. #2017.— Adam B. Ellick (@aellick) May 10, 2017
Observation: The world is getting almost all of its news about the US president today from the Russian gov't and Russian state media.— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) May 10, 2017
Russia takes happy fun time pictures in White House & celebrates their victory in US election - US media not invited in their own country pic.twitter.com/cuYttK8xRS— Clint Watts (@selectedwisdom) May 10, 2017
NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who Lavrov last month scolded for her manners, appeared on MSNBC to criticize TASS’ presence at the Oval Office.
“The Russians had it all out globally while the White House press corps was kept out,” Mitchell said. “It’s unprecedented.”
It appears Russian state media agency TASS was allowed into the Trump-Lavrov meeting for photos.— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) May 10, 2017
US media were not allowed inside.
Other journalists voiced their concern on Twitter, saying that they suddenly became reliant on Russian news outlets for pictures from the American president’s meeting.
Photos of Trump's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak just hit the Getty wire and they're all credited to Russian news agency TASS pic.twitter.com/qE9lWB6KuS— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) May 10, 2017
To be clear: Russian media allowed in The White House. American media not. https://t.co/f4CqSQ2XjF— Emily Andras (@emtothea) May 10, 2017
The Washington Post cited US intelligence and White House officials who hinted that TASS' visit to the office was a potential security breach. The officials feared that the TASS correspondent could have planted a spying device in the presidential office.
The photos of the clandestine Lavrov-Trump-Kislyak meeting were taken by TASS photographer Alexander Shcherbak. The photos were then distributed by the Associated Press, which credits the Russian Foreign Ministry as the source, and then Getty Images, which credits TASS.
In light of WH press exclusion from this meeting, this feels like a not-to-subtle ribbing https://t.co/JKrvfO4Cml— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) May 10, 2017
US media was blocked from Trump/Lavrov Oval Office meeting. But you can see pictures on the Russian FM's Flickr... https://t.co/TqiJ8GGtsA— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) May 10, 2017
As speculation over the TASS images gathered momentum, the White House responded, saying one Russian and one American photographer captured the historic encounter.
"On background, our official photographer and their official photographer were present, that's it," the White House said, according to a pool report, USA Today notes.
WH told pool why Tass had photos of Lavrov Trump & not US: "Our official photographer & their official photographer were present, that's it"— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) May 10, 2017
Meanwhile, a senior administration official dismissed fears that TASS planted a bug in the Oval office.
The Russian news agency “had to go through the same screening as a member of the US press going through the main gate to the [White House] briefing room,” the official told the Washington Post.
Another official also dismissed any speculation that Ambassador Kislyak was there to recruit Trump.
“It is standard practice for ambassadors to accompany their principals, and it is ridiculous to suggest there was anything improper,” the administration official told the Washington Post, adding that the White House rooms “are swept routinely” for listening devices.