CNN Throws a Tantrum After Being ‘Barred’ from EPA Press Event

The folks at CNN were fuming Tuesday after a correspondent and her cameraperson, along with those from the Associated Press, were kept out of a press event held by the EPA to discuss a plan to deal with a certain kind of toxin in water supplies. And during The Situation Room that evening, a host of CNN personalities threw hissy fits about not being allowed in. They even seemed to suggest the EPA couldn’t be held accountable unless CNN was in that room.

To discuss what happened from CNN’s point of view, anchor Wolf Blitzer brought on government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh, who was one of the reporters who were kept out, to describe what happened.

Our photographer briefed her on what the situation was. She entered the building and just about five minutes later our CNN photographer saying all he saw was an arm opening the door and shoving her out. To the point, she was having trouble keeping up with her steps,” she claimed.

Despite the suggestion of witness confirmation, this claim the AP reporter was physically forced out of the building may be “overblown.” According to Daily Caller reporter Jason Hopkins, who attended the event: “No one ‘forcibly’ grabbed her. She wasn’t on the list, but felt she was too special for the rules and simply refused to leave, despite being asked numerous times to do so. After ten minutes of stonewalling, the police told her if she didn’t leave they would make her leave.”

The other questionable detail about what had unfolded at the EPA event had to do with who was allowed to be there. According to CNN’s Marsh: “This is an event that was billed as open press, there was no mention about a need to rsvp. So open press usually means when the press shows up, they can be allowed to cover the event.” But at the same time, they and AP were turned away because they didn’t have an invitation to the event.

And what Marsh put off mentioning, until she was reading the EPA’s statement on what happened with the reporters, there was a live video stream event available for everyone. The Hill even noted that there was a reporter who had left the event to watch the live stream when they learned EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wouldn’t be taking questions. The EPA also suggested that the reason some were barred was that there was a seating issue.

 

 

Yeah, it’s pretty outrageous indeed. And another reporter inside saying there were empty seats in that room,” Wolf huffed as he brought on CNN’s senior media reporter Brian Stelter to decry what happened and read the statements CNN and the AP put out.

This is an agency that cries out for accountability coverage right now and we need to know what the heck is going on in Pruitt's office, and with his deputies, and with his agency,” Stelter opined dramatically. “And instead, what we’re seeing is the door being closed, and in some cases literally.

Even though the room Pruitt was speaking to was filled with reporters, Stelter seemed to describe how it was up to CNN to be the ones to hold the EPA accountable:

Let’s be honest Wolf, both of us know there’s always a push and pull between the news media and government. That’s the way it is. But government agencies have been pushing harder lately, much more aggressively closing the door, sometimes literally. Especially in response to reporters who are pursuing accountability stories, trying to hold the government accountable.

It is pretty outrageous to think about it, somebody who’s been reporting on these kind of issues for a long time. That this is happening right now it is awful and we'll stay on top of this story certainly for our viewers,” Blitzer whined as they wrapped up the segment.

Yes, it’s the job of the press to hold the government accountable. But outlets like CNN have enormous egos and they depict themselves as the physical embodiment of the First Amendment. There were other outlets there and no Q&A anyway. So CNN was basically complaining they couldn’t shout questions that wouldn’t be answered.

The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:

 

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CNN's The Situation Room
May 22, 2018
5:36:23 PM Eastern [6 minutes 47 seconds]

WOLF BLITZER: Everybody standby. There is other news we're following in Washington as well. CNN and other news organizations attempted to cover a national summit meeting on harmful chemicals in our water. The summit featured a speech by the embattled head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. But CNN’s government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh and other reporters were not allowed into the meeting, even though it was an open meeting and no classified information. Renee is joining us now, along with our senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. First of all, Rene, tell us what happened.

RENE MARSH: Well Wolf, we should point out that we didn't even learn about the event from the EPA. We learned about it from a service that CNN subscribes to that essentially tells you a daily list of events happening throughout Washington, D.C. This was an event about harmful chemicals in the public water. So we attended the event this morning. I can tell you our CNN photographer showed up at about two hours early when he arrived there he was told that he was not invited and he needed to leave. As he was leaving, the AP reporter was on her way in.

Our photographer briefed her on what the situation was. She entered the building and just about five minutes later our CNN photographer saying all he saw was an arm opening the door and shoving her out. To the point, she was having trouble keeping up with her steps. That reporter then told our crew that she informed them. She wanted to speak with the press office first because she was there to cover this event, a very important topic and at that point, she was shoved out of the door.

Myself and one of our producers here at CNN, we tried to enter through another door that was not designated for media and other attendees attending this conference. We too were told that we were not invited and CNN was not allowed to enter. But we were not given a reason as to why we would not be allowed to enter right on the spot. However, all of this started quite an uproar as you would imagine because this is an event that was billed as open press, there was no mention about a need to rsvp. So open press usually means when the press shows up, they can be allowed to cover the event.

After the backlash, the EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox did issue a statement and this is what it said. It said, quote, “This was simply an issue of the room reaching capacity which reporters were aware of prior to the event. He goes on to say, we were able to accommodate ten reporters provided a live stream for those who could not be accommodated and were unaware of the individual situation that was being reported.”

So the EPA saying they didn't know about the reporter being shoved out of the door. And the group of reporters that cover the EPA, we all speak and speak on a regular basis. And those who were in the room, they do not explain it as a capacity issue. In fact, there was room for other cameras and there were actually empty seats. So it really is unclear why certain media outlets were allowed and selected to attend this event with the administrator, the head of the agency speaking, while others were barred from the event.

BLITZER: Yeah, it’s pretty outrageous indeed. And another reporter inside saying there were empty seats in that room. Brian Stelter, first of all, how are the Associated Press and CNN responding?

BRIAN STELTER: By saying this is unacceptable, especially because as your banner on screen says the EPA chief has been embattled. Everywhere you turn, there seems to be another scandal involving the EPA. This is an agency that cries out for accountability coverage right now and we need to know what the heck is going on in Pruitt's office, and with his deputies, and with his agency. And instead, what we’re seeing is the door being closed, and in some cases literally.

Let’s be honest Wolf, both of us know there’s always a push and pull between the news media and government. That’s the way it is. But government agencies have been pushing harder lately, much more aggressively closing the door, sometimes literally. Especially in response to reporters who are pursuing accountability stories, trying to hold the government accountable.

(…)

BLITZER: It is pretty outrageous to think about it, somebody who’s been reporting on these kind of issues for a long time. That this is happening right now it is awful and we'll stay on top of this story certainly for our viewers. Guys, thanks.

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