White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. SHAWN THEW / EPA
SHAWN THEW / EPA

When is a ban not a ban? When the White House says so

The controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s Muslim ban was still going strong when Sean Spicer reached the White House briefing-room podium yesterday, but the press secretary surprised many by rolling out a new argument the public hasn’t heard before.
“It’s not a travel ban…. When we use words like ‘travel ban,’ that misrepresents what it is. […]

“I think the president has talked about extreme vetting and the need to keep America safe for a very, very long time. At the same time, he’s also made very clear that this is not a Muslim ban, it’s not a travel ban.”
Yes, the new White House pitch is that their ban isn’t actually ban – and we should all stop using the word Trump World has decided it doesn’t like.

Or more accurately, we should all stop using the word Trump World has decided it doesn’t like anymore. The problem with Spicer’s pushback – well, one of the problems anyway – is that White House officials, up and down the ladder, have repeatedly used the word “ban” in recent days to describe their own policy.

At different times in recent days, Donald Trump, Sean Spicer, and Kellyanne Conway have all referred to the president’s executive order as a “ban.” The president himself called it a “very, very strict ban.” The Trump administration’s Customs and Border Patrol website, as of this morning, calls it a “ban.” White House materials have referred to the policy specifically as a “ban” in writing.

But wait, it gets funnier.

Spicer was eventually asked yesterday by NBC News why we shouldn’t use the word “ban” if Trump himself has made repeated references to his own policy as a “ban.” The White House press secretary responded, “He’s using the words that the media is using…. I think that the words that are being used to describe it are derived from what the media is calling this.”

Got that? It’s the media’s fault the president is using a word he doesn’t want to use. Those rascally news organizations apparently tricked him.

The timeline of events is worth appreciating in detail:

1. The Trump White House unveils its ban.

2. The Trump White House refers to its policy as a ban.

3. News organizations use the same word the White House uses.

4. The Trump White House blames the media for its own word choice.

It’s quite an operation they’re running at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


White House

When is a ban not a ban? When the White House says so