White House Bans CNN Reporter From Open Press Event

Kaitlan Collins - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of CNN

"We demand better," CNN responded in a statement.

CNN announced Wednesday that White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins had been barred from attending an open White House press event in the Rose Garden following a question that senior officials found "inappropriate."

In a statement released Wednesday the outlet said that after Collins asked questions of President Trump as a pool reporter, she was ushered into a meeting with White House deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Shine's office. At the meeting, the two officials told Collins that she was "disinvited" from a press event with Trump and president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker because her questions had been "inappropriate."

Collins said in a CNN story about the encounter that Shine and Sanders also claimed she was "shouting"; CNN counters that after it reviewed footage it concluded Collins was speaking at a normal volume for the venue. 

Collins asked two questions during her time in the pool, per CNN. She started by asking "Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?" and repeated the question. When he did not answer she asked the question in a different way: "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 Trump did not answer, Collins asked another question: "Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation, Mr. President?" Trump reportedly shut down the questioning by telling the pool, "Thank you very much, everybody."

"Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question regarding the news of the day, doesn't mean the question isn't relevant and shouldn't be asked," CNN said in its statement about the event. "This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of a free and open press. We demand better."  

Bill Shine resigned as co-president of Fox News in May 2017 and in June was named White House deputy chief of staff for communications and assistant to the president. The role had been vacant since Hope Hicks' departure in February.

The Trump administration has a history of run-ins with CNN. A New York Times report in December claimed that Trump "hate-watches CNN to get worked up, especially Don Lemon."

Reporters stood with Collins and CNN on Wednesday, with Fox News' Bret Baier tweeting, "@FoxNews stands firmly with @CNN on this issue" and NBC News' Megyn Kelly applauding his statement ("Good for them," she tweeted). New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker wrote that "a strong leader does not fear questions" while Newsday White House correspondent Laura Figueroa Hernandez noted that the administration's decision impacts "all networks." 

Fox News president and executive editor Jay Wallace also said in a statement, “We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press.”

CNN's Jake Tapper tweeted: "Absolutely disgraceful behavior from @presssec and Shine. @kaitlancollins is a tough professional and had every right to ask about Cohen, about whom POTUS has repeatedly tweeted. WH press corps and media writ large needs to unite against this."

The White House Correspondents' Association also condemned the administration's action, calling the action "misguided" and "inappropriate" in a statement. "This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed and weak. It cannot stand."

The White House responded with its own statement, NBC News reported Wednesday. Attributed to Sanders, the statement read, "At the conclusion of a press event in the Oval Office a reporter shouted questions and refused to leave despite being repeatedly being asked to do so. Subsequently, our staff informed her she was not welcome to participate in the next event, but 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. To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House."