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CNN Reporter: White House Called My Questions 'Inappropriate,' Banned Me From Event

At a photo-op on Wednesday, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins asked the president a series of questions about his former lawyer Michael Cohen and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Alex Brandon
At a photo-op on Wednesday, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins asked the president a series of questions about his former lawyer Michael Cohen and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Updated at 6:25 a.m. ET Thursday

As an Oval Office photo-op was ending on Wednesday afternoon, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins fired off a series of questions for President Trump.

"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?"

"Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation, Mr. President?"

At the time, Collins was representing five television networks as the pool reporter for the White House press corps. The scene was captured by several cameras and more than a dozen journalists with pencils, cameras and microphones poised, awaiting the president's response.

But Trump ignored all four of Collins' questions from across the room, fixing his gaze away from her general direction.

Shortly afterward, Collins, who formerly worked for the conservative website The Daily Caller, said she was called into the office of Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive who was recently hired as the administration's deputy chief of staff for communications.

Together with press secretary Sarah Sanders, Shine told Collins she was not invited to attend an open press event in the Rose Garden in the afternoon "because they thought the questions I had posed to the president were inappropriate and inappropriate for that venue," the reporter said in a CNN interview about the incident.

"I told them that is often our only chance to ask the president questions," Collins told CNN host Wolf Blitzer. "Those questions were questions any reporter would have asked and I was there to represent all of the networks and therefore asked about the questions of the day."

The White House has confirmed that Collins was disinvited from the Rose Garden press event but says the decision was based on the reporter's loudness and her refusal to exit the president's office.

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Sanders wrote that "at the conclusion of a press event in the Oval Office, a reporter shouted questions and refused to leave 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. She said it didn't matter to her because she hadn't planned to be there anyway. To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House," Sanders wrote.

Several journalists have excoriated the White House for barring Collins after she did what they see as her professional duty.

In a Twitter post Hallie Jackson, who covers the White House for NBC News, said the decision was "inexcusable, unacceptable, and sets an extremely dangerous precedent. ... We shout questions at the president regularly. It's called: doing our job."

The New York Times' Peter Baker also tweeted, calling the White House's actions "outrageous."

"A strong leader does not fear questions. A strong democracy does not shield its leaders from those who question authority," he wrote.

The White House Correspondents' Association President Olivier Knox condemned the Trump administration for its decision to ban Collins.

"This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak. It cannot stand," he wrote in a statement. "Reporters asking questions of powerful government officials, up to and including the President, helps hold those people accountable."

Blitzer reported that CNN's network bureau chiefs in Washington, D.C., "are filing formal complaints with Shine and others at the White House."

Fox News also weighed in on the controversy. "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 late Wednesday.

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.
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