CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins asked President Donald Trump questions he didn’t like. So the White House barred her from attending his Rose Garden press availability Wednesday afternoon.
Collins had been serving as the official “pool reporter” for the White House press corps during an Oval Office photo-op earlier Wednesday when she did her job, and asked the president some questions about the news of the day.
“Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?” she asked. “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?” When Trump declined to answer, she tried, “Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation, Mr. President?”
Trump didn’t answer, and Collins was then summoned to the office of Trump’s new deputy chief of staff for communications — and former Fox News executive — Bill Shine.
Collins says he told her she was “disinvited from the press availability in the Rose Garden today” because she had “shouted” questions he and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deemed “inappropriate.”
“I was there to represent all of the networks and therefore asked about the questions of the day along with the other reporters and my colleagues in that room,” Collins said on CNN shortly after the incident at the White House. “Because of that the White House blocked me from going to an open press event here at the White House that all reporters are allowed to go because they did not like the questions that I asked President Trump about the news of the day.”
Host Wolf Blitzer called the decision “shocking” and “unheard of” and said he “would like to see” a formal apology from Shine for the way he “reprimanded” Collins.
In a statement, a spokesperson for CNN said, “Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question regarding the news of day doesn't mean the question isn't relevant and shouldn't be asked. This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press. We demand better.”
Collins’ colleagues at CNN and at other news outlets were quick to come to her defense on Twitter. Jake Tapper called the move “absolutely disgraceful” and Dana Bash said it was “outrageous and highly alarming.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association president Oliver Knox issued a statement “strongly condemning” the White House’s “misguided and inappropriate decision today to bar one of our members from an open press event after she asked questions they did not like.” He added, “This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak. It cannot stand.”
In her statement issued Wednesday evening, Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that at the end of the Oval Office photo-op Collins “shouted questions and refused to leave despite repeatedly being asked to do so.” Sanders then said that after the communications staff informed the CNN reporter that she wouldn’t be allowed to attend the Rose Garden event, Collins said it “didn’t matter to her because she hadn’t planned to be there anyway.”
“To be clear,” Sanders added, “we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House.”
The vindictive move by the White House came little more than a week after President Trump once again refused to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta during his joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, calling the network “fake news.” In the moment, when Trump instead took a question from a “real network,” Fox News, reporter John Roberts did not stick up for Acosta, though he later defended him in a tweet and on-air.
Today, Fox News host Bret Baier was quicker to defend Collins, saying on-air, “As a member of the White House press pool, Fox stands firmly with CNN on this issue of access.”
And then there was this important reminder from CNN contributor Joan Walsh, who seemed unsurprised a man like Bill Shine would take such an action given his history of allegedly covering up for a serial sexual harasser.