According to CNN, the White House retaliated against reporter Kaitlan Collins after she directed some questions at President Donald Trump during a pool reporter session in the Oval Office ahead of the president’s trade meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Collins was the designated pool reporter at the photo op, meaning she was representing all the major television networks, when she asked the president questions about the recently released recording of Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen discussing a payoff to a former Playboy model, and about Trump’s invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit the White House.
Trump did not answer any of Collins’s questions. Collins left the Oval Office, but said afterward she was called into the office of Bill Shine, the White House’s new communications chief. There, Shine and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told her that she wouldn’t be allowed to attend an open press event in the Rose Garden later on Wednesday afternoon “because they thought the questions that I posed to President Trump were inappropriate and inappropriate for that venue,” Collins recalled.
“I told them that is often our only chance to ask the president questions,” Collins said on CNN Wednesday. “Those questions are questions any reporter would have asked, and I was there to represent all the networks, and therefore ask about the questions of the day.”
Collins told CNN’s Brian Stelter that Shine and Sanders said that CNN wasn’t barred from sending other reporters to the Rose Garden event — just her. The event Collins was reportedly barred from attending featured brief remarks from Juncker and Trump about EU-US trade negotiations. Neither leader took press questions after their statements.
In a statement, the White House said confirmed that Collins had been disinvited, but claimed that she had “refused to leave despite repeatedly being asked to do so.”
“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 in a statement.
.@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
It’s standard practice for reporters to throw rapid-fire questions at the president during similar photo ops. Reporters often try to ask about the most pressing topics of the day, even if they have nothing to do with the topic at hand precisely because, as Collins argued, they don’t have many other opportunities to ask the president tough questions. (The White House also did not host a daily press briefing Wednesday.) The president can choose to answer the questions, or ignore them altogether, as he did on Wednesday.
The White House’s hostility toward the press is old news. But it’s still alarming.
This White House — and the Trump campaign before that — has had a tense relationship with the press, one that trickles down directly from the man in charge with his incessant “fake news” attacks. CNN is a frequent target of his ire; during a press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May two weeks ago, Trump refused to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, calling the network fake news and instead taking a question from Fox News’s John Roberts, which Trump referred to as a “real network.” (Fox News came out strongly against Collins’s disinvitation from the event, saying it stands “in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists.”)
Trump continues to come under fire for his constant attacks of the press. He’s back to calling the media the “enemy of the people.” On Tuesday, at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City, he lambasted the press corps covering his speech for their coverage of his trade policies. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” he said, egging the crowd on to heckle the reporters.
“Just remember,” Trump continued, “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”