Last month the White House press office told CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins that she was not allowed to attend a event in the Rose Garden that was otherwise open to the press, CNN reports.
Ms Collins said that Bill Shine, the White House deputy chief of staff for communications, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, told her that she had been banned from the event in retaliation for trying to ask President Trump a question during a photo-op, according to a report from US Press Freedom Tracker
Earlier in the day, President Trump and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had sat for a so-called “pool spray” — a photo opportunity attended by a small subset of the White House press corps.
Ms Collins was the designated TV pool reporter, which meant that she was responsible for reporting on what happened during the pool spray and then relaying that information to her colleagues in the White House press corps.
During the pool spray, Ms Collins tried to ask Trump if he had any comment on two major news stories — the revelation that Trump’s lawyer had secretly taped some of his phone conversations, and Trump’s invitation to Russian president Vladimir Putin to have a meeting in Washington, D.C.
Trump ignored both questions.
It is standard practice for pool reporters like Kaitlan Collins to shout out questions to the president during photo opportunities. Trump often mostly ignores such questions, but occasionally provides off-the-cuff answers, which instantly make news.
“It wasn’t anything different from any other pool spray,” Ms Collins told CNN. But the White House press office, which in the past has criticised pool reporters for asking questions during pool sprays, decided to make an example out of her.
Later in the day, Trump and Juncker announced a surprise press conference in the Rose Garden. The event was open to all members of the press — at least, all members of the press except for Kaitlan Collins.
Shortly before the Rose Garden press conference began, Shine and Sanders pulled Kaitlan Collins aside and told her that she was not allowed to attend.
“They said ‘You are dis-invited from the press availability in the Rose Garden today,’” the reporter recalled in an interview with CNN. “They said that the questions I asked were inappropriate for that venue. And they said I was shouting.”
“We’re not banning your network,” Ms Collins recalled Shine and Sanders telling her. “Your photographers can still come. Your producers can still come. But you are not invited to the Rose Garden today.”
In response, Ms Collins said, she told Shine and Sanders, “You’re banning me from an event because you didn’t like the questions I asked.”
CNN was quick to defend Collins. “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,” CNN said in a statement. “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.”
Caption: Bill Shine, newly hired as Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications, talks with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and counselor Kellyanne Conway, in the East Room of the White House. (Reuters/Jim Bourg)