The White House banned CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from a press event on Wednesday after she did her job and asked President Donald Trump questions about the most pressing topics of the week in the Oval Office.
Now, journalists across a wide range of news organizations ― including Fox News President Jay Wallace ― are jumping to Collins’ defense and speaking out against the White House’s actions.
.@BretBaier on White House decision to ban CNN’s @KaitlanCollins from a Rose Garden event:— Harrison Golden (@harrisongolden) July 26, 2018
"As a member of the White House press pool, @FOXNews stands firmly with CNN on this issue of access." pic.twitter.com/OaBTvIXJUq
As today's radio pooler, I was in the Oval Office with @kaitlancollins, heard her questions, thought they were good and timely ones, and find an official government sanction in response to them an absolute, stunning outrage.— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) July 25, 2018
Collins was serving as the network pool reporter, representing all of the major news networks, for an event with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday. At the end of it, she and other reporters asked Trump a few questions ― as is common for journalists who attend such gatherings. (Trump sometimes answers questions in these situations; other times, he chooses not to.)
According to CNN, Collins asked Trump questions about Michael Cohen, his former attorney who is under federal investigation and whose secret recording of Trump was recently released. She also asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom the Trump administration planned to invite to Washington. D.C., this fall before pushing back the meeting.
Other journalists at the event, including HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly, also asked the president about Cohen’s tapes multiple times as staffers ushered them out of the office.
In Oval Office just now, reporters tried to press Trump on the Cohen tapes. This time, he didn’t take the bait. pic.twitter.com/Hn11zZ5Hoj— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) July 25, 2018
After the press event, the White House announced that Trump and Juncker would be available to talk to the press at another event in the Rose Garden. As reporters waited to go to that event, White House aide Hogan Gidley approached the press pool and asked where Collins was. He left reporters with the impression that they had important information to provide her.
Collins later said she was called to White House deputy chief of staff Bill Shine’s office, where Shine and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders disinvited her from the next press event.
CNN said in a statement that Shine and Huckabee Sanders told Collins her questions were “inappropriate.”
“They were not,” CNN’s statement read. “Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question regarding the news of the day doesn’t mean the question isn’t relevant and shouldn’t be asked.”
“This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press,” the statement continued. “We demand better.”
Statement regarding CNN press access at today’s White House event. We demand better. pic.twitter.com/s4lSTcHVak— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) July 25, 2018
Wallace, the president of Fox News, swiftly offered his support to CNN in a statement issued after the incident.
“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.
Huckabee Sanders said in a statement later on Wednesday that Collins was banned from the later event because she shouted and refused to leave the Oval Office.
“To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House,” the press secretary said.
However, other reporters who were in the Oval Office at the time said that Collins acted appropriately during the press event and exited with everyone else.
CBS News’ Steven Portnoy, who was serving as the radio network pool reporter for the day, said Collins “was no less willing to leave” the office than “any other member of the larger-than-usual press contingent.”
“As is typical, [Collins] began asking questions after the president finished his remarks. So did I, and many other reporters,” Portnoy tweeted. “The large scrum was eventually coaxed from the room by the press ‘wranglers’ who escort us in and out.”
As is typical, @KaitlinCollins began asking questions after the president finished his remarks.— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) July 25, 2018
So did I, and many other reporters.
The large scrum was eventually coaxed from the room by the press "wranglers" who escort us in and out.
Bloomberg reporter Toluse Olorunnipa, who was also at the event, accused Huckabee Sanders of lying about Collins’ behavior.
“I was there,” Olorunnipa tweeted. “I saw reporters doing their jobs and asking questions of the president, then leaving w/o incident.”
.@PressSec is continuing to malign @kaitlancollins with a false statement saying she "refused to leave" the Oval Office after a press event. I was there.— Toluse Olorunnipa (@ToluseO) July 25, 2018
I saw reporters doing their jobs and asking questions of the president, then leaving w/o incident. pic.twitter.com/I1nbGr8DwT
Similarly, Associated Press chief photographer Evan Vucci, also at the event, vouched for Collins and said that the type of questioning he saw on Wednesday was not unlike other photo ops he’s covered.
“I’ve covered these photo ops for almost 15 years and [Collins] didn’t do anything that hundred of other great reporters did in that same room,” he tweeted.
The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on these accounts of that event.
This is outrageous- I was there. I’ve covered these photo ops for almost 15 years and @kaitlancollins didn’t do anything that hundred of other great reporters did in that same room. She. Did. Her. Job. https://t.co/8ehCGCX3Nl— Evan Vucci (@evanvucci) July 26, 2018
The White House has maintained a contentious relationship with the news media over the course of Trump’s presidency, and Huckabee Sanders has often sparred with reporters during press briefings.
But Wednesday’s ban on Collins struck a new chord with political journalists, and many called it an attack on the free press.
“This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak. It cannot stand,” White House Correspondents’ Association President Oliver Knox said in a statement. “Reporters asking questions of powerful government officials, up to and including the President, helps hold those people accountable.”
Other journalists have joined the chorus against the White House’s treatment of Collins, including Washington Post White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker, Fox News’ Bret Baier, CNN’s Jake Tapper and One America News Network White House correspondent Trey Yingst:
What @kaitlancollins did today -- ask the president questions -- is what every reputable journalist must do. That is our job. We do it just about every day, and most days Trump answers. Today, he decided to retaliate by barring Kaitlan from his press event.— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 25, 2018
Absolutely disgraceful behavior from @presssec and Shine. @kaitlancollins is a tough professional and had every right to ask about Cohen, about whom POTUS has repeatedly tweeted. WH press corps and media writ large needs to unite against this. https://t.co/ryg3Uj8qvG— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) July 25, 2018
Professional, tough and objective are just a few words I’d use to describe @kaitlancollins.— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) July 25, 2018
Denying her access to an open press event at the White House is unacceptable. Full stop. https://t.co/lPTEZKtkYh
Banning reporters who ask tough questions is not what democracies do. @kaitlancollins is a kick-ass, hard-nose journalist. She was doing her job. (Plus, she was representing not just CNN but all five tv networks today) #StandwithKaitlanhttps://t.co/Y6KKvjtt2U— Kristin Donnelly (@kristindonnelly) July 25, 2018
Statement from WHCA President @OKnox on White House’s decision to bar @kaitlancollins from open press event. My 2c: Kaitlin is a total pro and this is competely uncalled for pic.twitter.com/VK8b6ZDJ7u— Jordan Fabian (@Jordanfabian) July 25, 2018
Siren - my kick ass colleague @kaitlancollins was banned from an open press event for asking legit questions of the president on behalf of the 5 network pool. As a former White House reporter and as an American - this is outrageous and highly alarming.— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) July 25, 2018
Outrageous of the White House to bar @CNN reporter @kaitlancollins from an open press event because it did not like her questions. A strong leader does not fear questions. A strong democracy does not shield its leader from those who question authority. https://t.co/zmwH0vUZ3A— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) July 25, 2018
At the next White House presser, every reporter called on by Sarah Huckabee Sanders should voice their disapproval on how they treated CNN's Kaitlan Collins, ask why they did it, then ask their question. If u dont stand in solidarity theyll pick off every reporter they dont like.— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) July 25, 2018
Remember, @kaitlancollins was acting on behalf of all network television reporters today in the Oval. I stand firmly with her, and would have done exactly the same thing in her shoes.— Hallie Jackson (@HallieJackson) July 25, 2018
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.