CNN rebuked White House communications staff on Wednesday after one of its reporters, Kaitlan Collins, was kept out of an open press event featuring President Donald Trump.
The decision by the deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was due to what they said were “inappropriate” questions Collins asked Trump earlier in the day, CNN’s public-relations department said in a statement .
The questions Collins asked were about Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen. Some of those questions included:
- “Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?”
- “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?”
- “Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation?”
All of those inquiries stem from the release of audio from a conversation Cohen secretly recorded between himself and Trump in 2016 , the contents of which were made public Tuesday night. Trump reacted to that audio on Wednesday morning.
The question about Putin is in reference to the Russian president’s announcement this week that he would likely not accept an invitation from Trump to visit the White House, after a summit between the two leaders in Helsinki, Finland , last week was roundly condemned in the US.
The White House’s move to keep Collins out of the press event was additionally problematic because Collins at the time was representing several other news networks as the designated pool reporter. The Trump administration has been openly hostile to CNN and other news networks, except for Fox News, since Trump took office. Shine, a veteran of Fox News, joined the White House earlier this month.
Fox News president Jay Wallace condemned the White House’s actions in statement, saying “We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press.”
Business Insider founder and CEO Henry Blodget echoed the same : “Business Insider stands firmly with FOX, CNN, and the rest of the United States press corp. The President is employed by US taxpayers and has sworn to uphold the Constitution and freedom of the press.”
The White House Correspondents Association said in a statement : “This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak. It cannot stand.”