WASHINGTON — CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins was denied access to cover an open press event in the Rose Garden in retaliation for asking President Donald Trump questions earlier in the day, the network said on Wednesday.
“We demand better,” CNN said in a statement.
The network said Collins “was told by deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders that her questions were ‘inappropriate.’ They were not. Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question regarding the news of the 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.”
Earlier in the day, Collins was in the pool for a photo op in which Trump was meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. CNN said she asked Trump a series of questions, including, “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”; and “Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation?”
The questions were references to some of the stories of the day, and one that Trump himself has tweeted about: the release of a 2016 tape recording of Trump and his then-attorney Cohen discussing the payment for the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story. She alleges that she had an affair with Trump in 2016. CNN obtained the tape and ran it on air on Tuesday evening.
Trump and Juncker appeared in the Rose Garden later on Wednesday to make a trade announcement, but CNN said Collins was told she was not invited.
Olivier Knox, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said they “strongly condemn 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. This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak. It cannot stand. Reporters asking questions of powerful government officials, up to and including the President, helps hold those people accountable. In our republic, the WHCA supports the prerogative of all reporters to do their jobs without fear of reprisal from the government.”
Other media organizations came to CNN’s defense, including Fox News.
“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press,” Fox News president Jay Wallace said in a statement. Shine is the former co-president of the news network.