WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CNN said on Wednesday that one of its White House correspondents, Kaitlin Collins, was excluded from covering one of President Donald Trump’s events on Wednesday, prompting a complaint by the White House Correspondents Association.
Collins was barred from a Rose Garden event for asking questions at an earlier event about an audio recording of Trump purportedly discussing with his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, a fund being established to pay a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, for keeping quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.
Collins asked about the audio recording in a picture-taking session in the Oval Office as Trump met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
CNN said in a statement that Collins was told by White House communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders that her questions had been “inappropriate” and that she could not attend an event later in the Rose Garden during which Trump and Juncker announced a joint working dialogue on trade.
“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,” CNN said.
Trump has frequently complained about CNN’s coverage of his presidency, saying he feels it is unfair.
In a statement that did not name Collins, Sanders said that a reporter had shouted questions and refused to leave at the conclusion of an Oval Office press event “despite repeatedly being asked to do so.”
“Subsequently, our staff informed her she was not welcome to participate in the next event, but made clear that any other journalist from her network could attend,” Sanders said.
Jay Wallace, president of Fox News, which is frequently praised by Trump, expressed support for CNN.
“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press,” Wallace said in a statement.
Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents Association, denounced the White House decision.
“We 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,” Knox said in a statement.
“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,” Knox said.
Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Toni Reinhold