White House Bans CNN’s Kaitlan Collins from Event in ‘Unprecedented’ ‘Attack’ on Reporters

On Wednesday afternoon, the White House took the step of banning CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins from a Rose Garden announcement about tariffs following what the Trump administration believed were inappropriate questions shouted by Collins hours earlier about Michael Cohen and Vladimir Putin to the President.

In reacting to this move, however, CNN’s Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer falsely decried the move as “unprecedented” and behavior fitting for “some totalitarian regime.” Really.

 

 

“But first, I want to go quickly to the White House where, in an unprecedented, CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins was banned from a late afternoon press event in the Rose Garden because the White House simply didn't like the questions she asked the president earlier in the day,” Blitzer announced at 5:56 p.m. Eastern.

Before going further, it’s worth noting that not only has the Fox News Channel released a statement in support of CNN, but Fox News personalities such as Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum tweeted their support. It’s safe to say some at CNN are devastated they couldn’t use this occasion to go after the outlet they treat like an enemy.

Collins explained that she “was blocked from attending an open press event here at the White House because the White House did not like the questions I posed to President Trump earlier in the day during an event in the Oval Office with the President of the European Commission” when she represented the five television networks (ABC, CBS, MSNBC/NBC, CNN, and FNC). 

After playing clips of her questions from the pool spray, Collins further explained what happened later in the day (click “expand” to read more):

We left the Oval Office and then later, I was called into the office of Bill Shine, the President’s latest hire, who is his right hand man for communications. It was him and the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, who told me I would not be invite today an open press event here in the Rose Garden moments later at the White House because they thought the questions that I posed to President Trump were inappropriate and inappropriate for that venue. I told them that it is often our only chance to ask the President questions. Those questions were questions any reporter would have asked and I was there to represent all of the networks and, therefore, ask about the questions of the day along with the other reporters and my colleagues in that room. 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, Wolf. 

Blitzer responded that it’s “truly shocking,” “really unheard of,” and something he’s “never heard of” especially because “[i]t’s an open event” where Collins is “an accredited White House correspondent.”

“It’s truly shocking to hear that and I think all of our colleagues, anyone who ever served as a White House correspondent, I don't think anyone will remember a time they blocked from an accredited White House correspondent from a major news organization in the United States from attending an open event in the Rose Garden,” he added.

Collins noted that other CNN journalists were allowed to attend the event with no problem even though, earlier in the day, she “was simply doing my job, asking questions of the President about the news of the day.”

Blitzer continued and turned to Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal in an attempt to gain his sympathy (again, click “expand”):

BLITZER: [T]his is truly pretty shocking that the White House would bar an accredited White House correspondent from an open event as they did for you and I assume the White House Correspondents Association and the network bureau chiefs here in Washington are filing formal complaints with Bill Shine and others at the White House. It is not supposed to happen this way. It’s truly outrageous. Kaitlan, thank you very much for your excellent, excellent work at the white house. I want to get more on all of this. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is joining us. He’s a member of the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees. Let me get your quick reaction to what Kaitlan just told us. Obviously, I’m pretty angry about it, but you’re a member of the United States Senate.

BLUMENTHAL: Wolf, I am shocked and angry, deeply offended not only as a United States Senator, but as a citizen of the United States by this kind of very chilling intimidation and punishment of a reporter simply for asking a legitimate question. This is kind of really — violation of a report's rights is an offense against the First Amendment interests of all of us and it is public property. It’s not Donald Trump's personal home or place of business. It is really a source of information all of us need and deserve and these questions are legitimate. I am really, deeply offended. 

Blitzer shot back in that “it’s something you would expect to see in some totalitarian regime.” In turn, Blumenthal replied by giving CNN exactly what it wants, which is this rosy view that the First Amendment equals the media and not the rest of the American people.

The CNN host demanded new deputy White House chief of staff Bill Shine apologize to Collins because “[t]his is an attack on the free press and it’s a very issue that they have to fix quickly.”

It’s worth noting that, in 2013, the Obama White House consistently banned photojournalists and many remember how that administration waged war on Fox News. That doesn’t even touch the James Risen and James Rosen scandals, Obama skirting the press (like Trump), and Michelle Obama traveling abroad without journalists, all of which the Associated Press’s Julie Mason wrote about in an April 24 piece for Variety.

At the end of the day, two wrongs don’t make a right. This self-inflicted wound of banning Collins has only further antagonized the press and allowed CNN to play its favorite role, which is the victim.

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s The Situation Room on July 25, click “expand.”

CNN’s The Situation Room
July 25, 2018
5:56 p.m. Eastern

WOLF BLITZER: But first, I want to go quickly to the White House where, in an unprecedented, CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins was banned from a late afternoon press event in the Rose Garden because the White House simply didn't like the questions she asked the president earlier in the day. Kaitlan, you were the network pool reporter representing the five television networks when you asked the President about that secret audio recording that the President's former lawyer Michael Cohen made of them discussing hush money payment to a Playboy playmate, who allegedly had an affair with Mr. Trump. Tell us precisely what happened cause it’s very, very worrisome. 

KAITLAN COLLINS: Yeah, that's right, Wolf. So, I was blocked from attending an open press event here at the White House because the White House did not like the questions I posed to President Trump earlier in the day during an event in the Oval Office with the President of the European Commission. So, to walk you exactly through what was going on I was representing the rest of the television networks during this spray which is what we refer to it here in the oval office. We were brought in for the top of the meeting between the President and the President of the European Commission. Both men delivered remarks and then I and several others started asking President Trump questions. This is a normal occurrence and it is often our only chance to ask President Trump questions that day and he often responds to us, Wolf, So, to give you a sense of the questions the white house did not like that we posed to President trump, here they are. [TO TRUMP] Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much. 

HOGAN GIDLEY: Thank you, everybody.

COLLINS: Mr. President, did Michael Cohen betray you? 

TRUMP: Thank you very much. 

GIDLEY: Thank you everybody. Thank you everybody. 

COLLINS: Mr. President, are you worried ability what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors? 

GIDLEY: Thank you, Kaitlan. Let's keep going. 

COLLINS: Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President? 

GIDLEY: Kaitlan, let’s keep going. Thank you, y’all. Keep going. Thank you everybody.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. 

COLLINS: Why has Vladimir Putin not accepted your invitation?

GIDLEY: Keep going. Thank you everybody. 

COLLINS: Mr. President —

GIDLEY: Thank you everybody. Let's go. Come on, guys. Thank you very much. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: We’re done. We’re done. Let’s go.

COLLINS: Why has Vladimir Putin not accepted your invitation, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: We’re done. We’re leaving.

COLLINS: So, Wolf, the questions I asked in case you couldn't hear them is if the President was upset and felt that Michael Cohen, his former attorney, had betrayed him by allowing the release of that audio recording. We also asked if he was worried what Michael Cohen would say to prosecutors. As you know, the President was tweeting about that recording with Michael Cohen just this morning on his Twitter account. And then I also asked the President if he — why Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, had not acceptable his invitation to the white house yet. It was before the White House announced they were going to postpone that meeting until next year. Now, Wolf, after that bit was over, the president did not answer questions. He said thank you. We left the Oval Office and then later, I was called into the office of Bill Shine, the President’s latest hire, who is his right hand man for communications. It was him and the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, who told me I would not be invite today an open press event here in the Rose Garden moments later at the White House because they thought the questions that I posed to President Trump were inappropriate and inappropriate for that venue. I told them that it is often our only chance to ask the President questions. Those questions were questions any reporter would have asked and I was there to represent all of the networks and, therefore, ask about the questions of the day along with the other reporters and my colleagues in that room. 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, Wolf. 

BLITZER: It’s truly shocking. You know, it's really unheard of. I’ve never heard of it. It is an open event. You're an accredited White House correspondent. Earlier in the day, you did precisely what you're supposed to do, representing the five television networks. You — you asked a question. You asked a couple of questions Others did as well. That's what happens at every photo opportunity. The white house knows this, but what’s truly shocking? They reprimand you. They call you in for this meeting with Bill Shine, deputy White House chief of staff in charge of communications and then he does something I have never heard of and I was a White House correspondent for seven years. He blocks you because of what you did which was legitimate journalism. He blocks you from attending an open event in the Rose Garden simply because you asked questions they didn't like. It’s truly shocking to hear that and I think all of our colleagues, anyone who ever served as a White House correspondent, I don't think anyone will remember a time they blocked from an accredited White House correspondent from a major news organization in the United States from attending an open event in the Rose Garden. So, what's been the reaction since then, Kaitlan? 

COLLINS: Well, Wolf, we haven't heard anything else from the White House. We did send some CNN photographers and other reporters to that briefing, but they said I specifically — or to that press conference — that open press availability with the President, but they said I could not go into that press conference. We have not had any other press availabilities here at the White House today. There was no White House press briefing with any of the press secretaries to take our questions in a public setting here in the briefing room where I'm standing now, Wolf, and I was simply doing my job, asking questions of the President about the news of the day. Some of the things the President already remarked on and then would make news when he issued the statement through the National Security Adviser John Bolton, but clearly the White House was not pleased with those questions we had for the President today. 

BLITZER: And at that open event in the White House which we had, of course, had coverage of that, the President didn't take any questions either when he was done with his statement. The President of the European Commission was done with his statement, they simply walked back up the stairs towards the Oval Office. That’s the President’s right. He doesn’t have to answer questions, but journalists are there to ask questions, that’s what’s happened for years and years at the White House and this is truly pretty shocking that the White House would bar an accredited White House correspondent from an open event as they did for you and I assume the White House Correspondents Association and the network bureau chiefs here in Washington are filing formal complaints with Bill Shine and others at the White House. It is not supposed to happen this way. It’s truly outrageous. Kaitlan, thank you very much for your excellent, excellent work at the white house. I want to get more on all of this. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is joining us. He’s a member of the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees. Let me get your quick reaction to what Kaitlan just told us. Obviously, I’m pretty angry about it, but you’re a member of the United States Senate.

CONNECTICUT DEMOCRATIC SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Wolf, I am shocked and angry, deeply offended not only as a United States Senator, but as a citizen of the United States by this kind of very chilling intimidation and punishment of a reporter simply for asking a legitimate question. This is kind of really — violation of a report's rights is an offense against the First Amendment interests of all of us and it is public property. It’s not Donald Trump's personal home or place of business. It is really a source of information all of us need and deserve and these questions are legitimate. I am really, deeply offended. 

BLITZER: Yeah, I mean, it’s something you would expect to see in some totalitarian regime and I’ve traveled with Presidents around the world at photo opportunities that the host government was unhappy that White House correspondents were shouting questions. They weren’t happy about that. They would come to us before a briefing, before a photo opportunity and say no questions allowed and we could always say the same thing. They don't have to answer the questions but our job is to represent the American news media and ask those questions. You don't like it; you don't have to answer the questions, but this is something — it’s not supposed to take place here, especially at the White House. 

BLUMENTHAL: We are the greatest nation in the history of the world because we have the Bill of Rights and one of those is the First Amendment. This kind of misconduct raises very severe First Amendment issues and I intend to preclude them

BLITZER: Yeah. I would like to see Bill Shine, the deputy White House chief of staff in charge of communications, who reprimanded Kaitlan Collins, I would like to see him formally, publicly apologize for what he has done. I don't know if he was ordered to do so by the President or if he just did it on his own, but that is simply unacceptable and there has to be an apology to Kaitlan — 

BLUMENTHAL: And it’s more about her.

BLITZER: — and she wasn't just representing CNN. She was representing ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, all of the television networks. She was the pool reporter on this day. She was doing her job. They should know better. 

BLUMENTHAL: And that’s what I’m saying. It’s more than about her personally, even if she may have been personally offended and it's more than about those networks that were represented by her in the pool. It’s about the American people's rights to see and hear and ask questions through her about the President of the United States. 

BLITZER: This is an attack on the free press and it’s a very issue that they have to fix quickly.


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