That happened quickly Tuesday when Sarah Huckabee Sanders called on a Breitbart News reporter for the first question of the White House briefing. It was about CNN.
She said the "constant barrage of fake news" at the president has frustrated Trump. She called stories about Russia and Trump "a hoax" that is distracting from other news. Sanders urged all Americans to watch a video posted by O'Keefe's Project Veritas featuring CNN producer John Bonifield — even though she couldn't vouch for its accuracy.
"If it is accurate, I think it's a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism," Sanders said. "I think that if we have gone to a place where the media can't be trusted to report the news, then that's a dangerous place for America. And I think if that is that place that certain outlets are going — particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings, and if that's coming directly from the top, I think that's even more scary."
She was interrupted by reporter Brian Karem of the Sentinel newspapers, who accused Sanders of inflaming anti-media sentiment. "Everyone in this room is only trying to do their job," he said.
Sanders ignored CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny's attempt to ask a question before ending her briefing.
After Sanders left the stage, she was criticized on Fox News Channel, where Trump-friendly views usually dominate. Wall Street Journal editor John Bussey told Fox's Shepard Smith that "the White House could actually learn from CNN's example" about being forthright when caught saying something untrue.
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that "they caught Fake News CNN cold." He lumped ABC, CBS, NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post together in the same "fake news" category. He said that "CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!"
A spokeswoman for CNN chief Jeff Zucker didn't respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. CNN's public relations staff refuted Trump's notion that the network is hurting, saying it is completing the most-watched second quarter in its history.
The president was livid at CNN's story but also felt vindicated because it seemed to confirm his belief that the cable network was trying to undermine his presidency, according to one staffer who demanded anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The CNN issue enables the White House to change the subject for what has been a rough stretch for the presidency, with constant questions about the Russia probe and a vote on the Republican health care bill delayed. Aides also believe that highlighting media mistakes could be a useful way of questioning reporters' credibility and convincing supporters that Trump was the victim of a witch hunt.
Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted a link to the Bonifield video. Besides talking about ratings, the Atlanta-based producer in CNN's medical unit said the network has no "smoking gun" showing wrongdoing by Trump and that "the president is probably right to say, look, you are witch-hunting me."
CNN said in a statement that it is standing by Bonifield. "Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong," CNN said. "We welcome it and embrace it."