A White House reporter for CNN was disinvited from a Rose Garden photo opportunity Wednesday after having called out questions to President Trump in an earlier Oval Office meeting about former personal attorney Michael Cohen tape-recording him.
According to CNN, when the Rose Garden photo-op was announced, Kaitlan Collins was told by Bill Shine, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications, and chief spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders that she could not come.
“They said ‘You are disinvited from the press availability in the Rose Garden today,'” Ms. Collins said.
Ms. Collins had earlier served as the White House “pool reporter” for an early afternoon meeting between President Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. She asked Mr. Trump some questions about Mr. Cohen and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“They said that the questions I asked were inappropriate for that venue. And they said I was shouting,” Ms. Collins said.
In a statement released Wednesday evening, Mrs. Sanders said Ms. Collins “shouted questions and refused to leave despite being repeatedly asked to do so.”
CNN denied Ms. Collins was shouting, writing that “a video clip of the exchange shows that Collins was speaking the same way journalists in the press pool usually speak.”
Mrs. Sanders also emphasized in her statement that she did not ban CNN from the event, just Ms. Collins.
It was “made clear that any other journalist from her network could attend. She said it didn’t matter to her because she hadn’t planned to be there anyway,” Mrs. Sanders said.
JUST IN: White House releases statement on incident Wednesday with CNN correspondent. pic.twitter.com/YsUJwhK1HF
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 25, 2018
According to Ms. Collins, she told the White House spokespeople that “You’re banning me from an event because you didn’t like the questions I asked?”
White House Correspondents Association President Olivier Knox said the White House’s action “cannot stand.”
“We strongly condemn the White House’s misguided and inappropriate decision today to bar one of our members from an open press event after she asked questions they did not like,” said WHCA President Olivier Knox. “This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak.”
He said reporters asking questions of powerful government officials, “up to and including the president, helps hold those people accountable.”
“In our republic, the WHCA supports the prerogative of all reporters to do their jobs without fear of reprisal from the government,” Mr. Knox said.
Fox News anchorman Bret Baier said on his show Wednesday evening that ” as a member of the White House press pool, Fox stands firmly with CNN on access.”
.@FoxNews backs @CNN after White House bars reporter:
“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press” Fox President Jay Wallace says in statement. @BretBaier echoes on air: https://t.co/izsdbConcx
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) July 25, 2018
The White House denied the exclusion of Ms. Collins was an attack on the press.
“To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House,” Mrs. Sanders said.
The White House has chafed at reporters shouting questions at Mr. Trump when he’s meeting with world leaders in dignified settings such as the Oval Office, believing that reporters should ask questions about the issue at hand — in this case, trade with the European Union.
But Mr. Trump also has encouraged persistent questioning in such events, frequently answering questions on unrelated topics that he wants to discuss, sometimes for as long as 15 minutes or more.
In the earlier meeting, Ms. Collins asked the president questions about hot-topic news stories, a standard move for pool reporters, who are assigned in limited-capacity events to represent all journalists covering the White House.
“Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?” she asked twice about the lawyer’s recording of conversations with Mr. Trump. She then asked “Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is about to say to the prosecutors? Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?”
When Mr. Trump didn’t answer, Ms. Collins changed subjects, asking about last week’s announcement of an invitation to Mr. Putin to visit Washington in the fall.
“Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation, Mr. President?” she asked.
Mr. Trump didn’t acknowledge that question either, saying only “thank you very much, everybody.”
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