It’s not often you see CNN and NBC land on the same side of an issue as Fox News, but this week, Donald Trump took his war on the Fake News Media a bridge too far for even the most Trump-aligned networks. Several competing media organizations and the White House Correspondents Association are speaking out against a decision made by the Trump administration to ban a CNN reporter from a press opportunity with the president after she asked some tough questions earlier in the day.
Kaitlan Collins was the pool reporter — meaning, she was the only reporter representing the five major American TV networks — for an appearance Trump made at the White House with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Wednesday afternoon. During the meeting, Collins did her job and lobbed a few hard-hitting questions the president’s way.
CNN’s @kaitlancollins said the White House asserted that “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.” https://t.co/LPQ78hdKAQ pic.twitter.com/SGVQhvrZNc
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) July 25, 2018
“Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?” Collins questioned, referring to the audio tapes of confidential conversations Cohen’s lawyer released Tuesday night which may be incriminating for POTUS.
“Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is about to say to the prosecutors?” she continued, “Are you worried about what’s on the other tapes, Mr. President?” When none of her Cohen questions elicited a response, Collins asked about another prominent scandal: Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin and his invitation to the Russian president to visit the White House this fall.
“Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation, Mr. President?” No response.
Shortly after the meeting, Collins was spoken to by the deputy chief of staff for communications, Bill Shine, and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. They told her that her questions were “inappropriate for that venue” and that she was “shouting” in the room. For those reasons, Collins was “dis-invited” from a surprise press availability with Donald Trump in the Rose Garden later in the day.
Sanders asserted that the CNN network wasn’t banned, just Collins herself — her photographers and producers could still attend the press opportunity. The network quickly released a response calling out the White House for trying to censor the free press (you know, one of the building blocks of democracy?) writing, “Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question about the news of the day doesn’t mean the question isn’t relevant and shouldn’t be asked.”
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 White House Correspondents Association issued a similar statement that evening, condemning the move by the Trump administration and supporting “the prerogative of all reporters to do their jobs.”
— WHCA (@whca) July 25, 2018
The president of Fox News even came out in support of Collins, as did fellow journalists from other publications. When it comes to the mission of bringing the truth to the people and pushing back on White House spin, looks like these dueling networks have each others’ backs.
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) July 26, 2018
When was the last time you saw something like this?
Fox News stands firmly with CNN after Kaitlan Collins was excluded from the Rose Garden press event. pic.twitter.com/oy6nqeUlaH
— Red T Raccoon (@RedTRaccoon) July 26, 2018
As today’s radio pooler, I was in the Oval Office with @kaitlancollins, heard her questions, thought they were good and timely ones, and find an official government sanction in response to them an absolute, stunning outrage.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) July 25, 2018
In statement, White House @PressSec acknowledges barring CNN reporter @kaitlancollins because she “shouted questions and refused to leave” Oval Office at end of pool spray. If that’s the standard, they will have to bar every member of the press pool since that’s what all of us do
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) July 25, 2018
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) July 25, 2018
Everyone in the press corps know @kaitlancollins is a talented and hard working reporter. So I don’t need to say it. But solidarity matters.
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) July 26, 2018
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a White House response to the outrage with their own retelling of events (which has proven to be pretty questionable as of late). They claim that Collins was boisterous and refused to leave, concluding that they support a free press but “ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House.”
#BREAKING: The White House issues a statement in regards to the press event incident involving CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, calling for everyone to “be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House.” – NBC News pic.twitter.com/OVk6xX8FDl
— Al Boe BREAKING NEWS (@AlBoeNEWS) July 25, 2018
Video from the press event during which Collins asked her questions shows her speaking in a calm tone at a decibel totally appropriate for the size of the room and for competing with ambient sound. Seems like another case of “what you’re seeing and reading is not what’s happening” gaslighting by the president.