WASHINGTON — Members of the White House press corps pushed back forcefully after the Trump administration barred CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from covering an event in the Rose Garden Wednesday.
“This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak,” White House Correspondents Association President Olivier Knox said in a statement. “It cannot stand.”
The controversy was sparked after White House aides told Collins Wednesday that she would not be granted access to an open press appearance from the president after she shouted questions to him in the Oval Office earlier that day.
After news of the White House’s steps spread, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders accused Collins of being disrespectful.
“A reporter shouted questions and refused to leave despite repeatedly being asked to do so,” Sanders said. “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.”
Sanders added that the White House supports a free press.
Reporters in the room, however, countered Sanders’ account.
.@PressSec is continuing to malign @kaitlancollins with a false statement saying she “refused to leave” the Oval Office after a press event. I was there.
I saw reporters doing their jobs and asking questions of the president, then leaving w/o incident. pic.twitter.com/I1nbGr8DwT
— Toluse Olorunnipa (@ToluseO) July 25, 2018
As the day’s radio network pooler, it seemed to me @KaitlinCollins was no less willing to leave the Oval than any other member of the larger-than-usual press contingent, which today included many European journalists covering the EU trade talks.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) July 25, 2018
CNN came to their reporters defense, describing the White House’s move as “retaliatory in nature” and putting the questions she asked on display.
Statement regarding CNN press access at today’s White House event. We demand better. pic.twitter.com/s4lSTcHVak
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) July 25, 2018
Collins, who was serving as the television pool reporter, a task in which she feeds information to the rest of the broadcast outlets, also received support from a top network rival.
“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 News President Jay Wallace said in a statement.
On Thursday, Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine played down the incident, suggesting that Collins was not in fact banned.
“You ask her if we ever used the word ‘ban,’ ” Shine said during an exchange with reporters outside the White House.
Shine would not say what word he would use instead.