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White House Reporter Says She Was Banned From Press Event For Inappropriate Questions

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins talks during a live shot in front of the White House on Wednesday. Collins says the White House denied her access to an open press event because officials found her earlier questions to the president "inappropriate."

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 he ignored all four of Collins' question from across the room, fixing his gaze away from her general direction.

Shortly afterward, Collins 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 contends 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 her professional duty as they see it.

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

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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