In Oval Office just now, reporters tried to press Trump on the Cohen tapes. This time, he didn’t take the bait. pic.twitter.com/Hn11zZ5Hoj— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) July 25, 2018
UPDATE: The White House would appreciate it if everyone would stop calling their refusal to allow a CNN correspondent into an event earlier this week a “ban.” What would they prefer we call it? Well, they’re not really sure about that, either.
White House deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine was adamant that the media stop calling their ban of journalist Kaitlan Collins an actual ban.
“You ask her if we ever used the word ‘ban,’” Shine said when asked about it on Thursday.
Collins was denied entry to an event featuring President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The White House said their refusal to let her in was based on questions she asked during a press “spray,” during which journalists are allowed to shout out questions to the president regarding recent news stories.
Collins had asked questions that were deemed “inappropriate,” according to the White House. Those questions centered around the release of an audio tape in which Trump appears to ask his former “fixer” lawyer Michael Cohen to pay off a former Playboy model he allegedly had an affair with, potentially violating campaign finance rules. She had also asked questions relating to Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
When asked what Shine would call their refusal to let Collins in, he struggled to come up with a different word. He put the onus on the press to ask Collins if she was technically banned.
“When you ask her if we ever use the word ‘ban,’ then I will answer that,” Shine said.
Whether the White House used the word “ban” or not is not a point of contention: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. The same can be said for their ban of Collins — calling it something else doesn’t change the fact that it’s essentially the same thing.
Furthermore, the White House’s refusal to allow Collins into the event, a retributive attempt to silence future questioning of the president that he may not like to entertain, is indisputably an attack on press freedom in the United States.
Those questions were relevant to recent news events and were likely on the minds of Americans across the country. Trump doesn’t have to answer those questions if he doesn’t want to, but punishing a reporter for asking them is behavior more suitable for an autocratic leader than a democratically-elected one.
A White House reporter for CNN was barred from attending a press event after she asked President Donald Trump questions that were termed “inappropriate” by White House’s communications team.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins was part of the press pool at Trump’s meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, which took place at the Oval Office. After the picture-taking session, Collins and other reporters present asked the president a few questions.
That is when the CNN reporter asked Trump about his former attorney Michael Cohen, who is under investigation by federal officials, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The president, of course, didn’t answer the questions.
Just as the reporter asked questions, the entire press pool was asked to leave the room and was told the president would take questions later from the press at another event in the Rose Garden.
Reporters then waited for that event to start so they could question Trump and Juncker. That is when White House aide Hogan Gidley came to the reporters and asked for Collins. The reporter was taken to White House deputy chief of staff Bill Shine’s office where White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was also present.
Collins was then told that she was not allowed to attend the event at Rose Garden.
“They said 'You are disinvited from the press availability in the Rose Garden today'. They said that the questions I asked were inappropriate for that venue. And they said I was shouting. You're banning me from an event because you didn't like the questions I asked,” the reporter said.
Shine and Sanders replied, “We're not banning your network. Your photographers can still come. Your producers can still come. But you are not invited to the Rose Garden today.”
White House later released a statement and confirmed a reporter was not allowed to attend the event but didn’t name Collins. The statement said the decision was made because the reporter refused to leave the Oval Office and shouted.
“To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House,” Sanders said.
CNN also released a statement and said the step was retaliatory move.
Statement regarding CNN press access at today’s White House event. We demand better. pic.twitter.com/s4lSTcHVak— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) July 25, 2018
The move to silence free press was widely criticized by all news networks – even Fox News. Jay Wallace, president of Fox News, condemned the White House’s actions.
“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press,” he said in a statement.
Other pool reporters who were present at the event said Collins did nothing wrong.
Steven Portnoy of CBS News tweeted his support for the reporter and said she asked questions just like many of the other reporters did who were present there.
“As is typical, [Collins] began asking questions after the president finished his remarks. So did I, and many other reporters,” Portnoy tweeted. “The large scrum was eventually coaxed from the room by the press ‘wranglers’ who escort us in and out.”
As is typical, @KaitlinCollins began asking questions after the president finished his remarks.— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) July 25, 2018
So did I, and many other reporters.
The large scrum was eventually coaxed from the room by the press "wranglers" who escort us in and out.
Bloomberg reporter Toluse Olorunnipa said the Sanders’ statement was absolutely false.
.@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.— Toluse Olorunnipa (@ToluseO) July 25, 2018
I saw reporters doing their jobs and asking questions of the president, then leaving w/o incident. pic.twitter.com/I1nbGr8DwT
Evan Vucci, Associated Press’ chief photographer, also shared similar thoughts and said the action was “outrageous.”
This is outrageous- I was there. I’ve covered these photo ops for almost 15 years and @kaitlancollins didn’t do anything that hundred of other great reporters did in that same room. She. Did. Her. Job. https://t.co/8ehCGCX3Nl— Evan Vucci (@evanvucci) July 26, 2018
Several other journalists also stood in solidarity with Collins.
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. https://t.co/ryg3Uj8qvG— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) July 25, 2018
What @kaitlancollins did today -- ask the president questions -- is what every reputable journalist must do. That is our job. We do it just about every day, and most days Trump answers. Today, he decided to retaliate by barring Kaitlan from his press event.— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 25, 2018
Siren - my kick ass colleague @kaitlancollins was banned from an open press event for asking legit questions of the president on behalf of the 5 network pool. As a former White House reporter and as an American - this is outrageous and highly alarming.— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) July 25, 2018
The Trump administration has had a turbulent relationship with press ever since Trump took office and the president has accused multiple news organization of spreading “fake news.” The latest action by the White House is nothing less than an attack on the free press but it doesn’t come as a surprise considering his past actions
In the past, POTUS tweeted a mock video of himself tackling and repeatedly striking a man with a CNN logo super-imposed in place of his head, followed by a logo saying "Fraud News Network."
Trump has been particularly scathing of CNN and White House shunning a CNN reporter from asking pertinent questions just proved for the umpteenth time what freedom of press means to this administration.
Spotlight, Banner: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images