White House Bars CNN Reporter From Presidential Event

Kaitlan Collins, a White House correspondent for CNN, said she was chastised by administration officials for what they deemed "inappropriate" questions that she had asked of President Trump.

The White House barred a CNN journalist from attending a public appearance by President Trump in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, an apparent act of retaliation that drew immediate rebuke from news organizations and signaled the latest escalation of Mr. Trump’s hostilities toward the news media.

Kaitlan Collins, a White House correspondent for CNN, said she was called into the West Wing and chastised by administration officials for what they deemed “inappropriate” questions that she had asked of Mr. Trump during an Oval Office photo opportunity earlier in the day.

The officials — Bill Shine, the newly appointed deputy chief of staff, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary — then informed Ms. Collins that they would not allow her to attend Mr. Trump’s public remarks with the president of the European Commission, an event that was otherwise open to the media.

“They did not like the questions I asked President Trump about the news of the day,” Ms. Collins said.

It is standard practice for reporters to ask questions of Mr. Trump at the end of photo ops, where the president often engages at length even as his aides try to shuffle the reporters from the scene.

On Wednesday, Ms. Collins — who attended as a pool reporter, representing the major television networks — asked Mr. Trump several times if he had concerns about the loyalty of his former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, whom the president had tweeted about on Wednesday morning.

“Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?” Ms. Collins asked.

And then: “Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is about to say to the prosecutors?”

Mr. Trump did not reply.

The president has routinely castigated journalists, describing media outlets he deems “fake news” as “the enemy of the people.” At a rally on Tuesday, he encouraged his supporters to ignore coverage of his administration, saying, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

The move against Ms. Collins prompted criticism from news organizations — including Fox News, Mr. Shine’s former employer and the network he was overseeing until being forced out last year. Mr. Shine has been the White House communications chief for less than three weeks.

“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press,” Jay Wallace, the president of Fox News, said in a statement. He was echoed on-air by the network’s chief political anchor, Bret Baier, who took a moment in his nightly newscast to say Fox News “stands firmly with CNN on this issue of access.”

Ms. Sanders, the press secretary, said in a statement on Wednesday that Ms. Collins “shouted questions and refused to leave” the Oval Office event, “despite repeatedly being asked to do so.”

“Subsequently, our staff informed her she was not welcome to participate in the next event,” Ms. Sanders wrote, adding that other CNN journalists were welcome to attend. She added: “To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House.”

That explanation failed to placate other journalists, some of whom condemned the actions of the White House as akin to authoritarianism. The White House Correspondents’ Association issued a notably sharp statement, calling the action “wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak.”

“It cannot stand,” the association’s president, Olivier Knox of SiriusXM Radio, wrote. “Reporters asking questions of powerful government officials, up to and including the president, helps hold those people accountable.”

The White House’s treatment of CNN on Wednesday — and the subsequent outcry from rival networks — echoed an incident in 2009 when the Obama administration tried to exclude Fox News reporters from official events after expressing anger over the network’s coverage.

At the time, other news organizations protested, refusing to attend a Treasury Department event if Fox News was not granted access, too.

Signs of solidarity in the White House press corps — usually an intensely competitive bunch — have been cropping up in the wake of Mr. Trump’s recent attacks. At a briefing last week, Ms. Sanders tried to skip a question from an NBC News correspondent, Hallie Jackson, by calling on a competing journalist for The Hill. The Hill reporter, Jordan Fabian, ceded the floor to Ms. Jackson instead.

Mr. Trump’s displeasure with CNN is well established, but he has lately appeared to ramp up his open hostility toward the network. In Britain this month, he called the network “fake news” while standing alongside the British prime minister, Theresa May, and refused to take a question from a CNN correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Riding on Air Force One during the trip, Mr. Trump raged at his staff when he discovered a television onboard was tuned to CNN, telling aides that Fox News had to be the default channel.

And those frustrations came before Tuesday evening, when CNN broadcast an audio recording of a conversation between the president and Mr. Cohen, in which the two men can be heard discussing a payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who has claimed that she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

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