Thursday, July 26, 2018


We shouldn't be surprised when President Trump mistreats the press. He's been attacking reporters, wrongly accusing them of fake news, and banning them from events since he first launched his campaign in 2015.

Still, the latest act of barring a CNN reporter from a White House event on Wednesday should signal some kind of retaliation from the White House Correspondents Association and others beyond simple criticism.

But what can they really do? Yes, Trump loves press attention when it is to his benefit, but any press boycott of coverage would play into his hands. It would also be irresponsible to stop covering the president. 

Or would it be a serious move that could be necessary?

Such a boycott threat is not unheard of. In 1999, when the Indianapolis 500 refused to credential Sports Illustrated auto racing writer Ed Hinton after he wrote a critical piece on auto safety, the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times were among those who were considering a boycott of the race. The threat died after racing officials reversed the credential denial.

Obviously the White House is not an auto race. Still, the continued press restrictions may need some serious response to be effective. 

In the latest incident, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins was apparently being punished for shouting questions to Trump earlier in the day during a joint appearance with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. 

As CNN wrote: 

On Wednesday afternoon Collins was representing all the television networks as the "pool reporter" in the room during a meeting between Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission.
As is customary, Collins lobbed a few questions at the president. She asked about Vladimir Putin and Michael Cohen. Trump did not answer the questions.
Later in the afternoon, the White House surprised the press corps by announcing a press availability with Trump and Juncker in the Rose Garden. It was said to be open to all press, not just the small pool.
A few minutes later, Collins was asked to come to Bill Shine's office. Shine, a former co-president of Fox News, is the new deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders met Collins there.
"They said 'You are dis-invited from the press availability in the Rose Garden today,'" Collins said in an interview. "They said that the questions I asked were inappropriate for that venue. And they said I was shouting."

CNN later revealed that Sanders confirmed the move and claimed Collins "shouted questions and refused to leave despite repeatedly being asked to do so." She then amazingly said, "To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House."

What a sham. 

And it's not unusual for Trump, who openly refused to let CNN reporter Jim Acosta ask a question just two weeks ago in England during his joint press event with Prime Minister Theresa May. Last year he chose to bar reporters from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Buzzfeed, CNN, and Politico from a press news "gaggle."

It was great to see so much backlash by news outlets to the latest incident, even Fox News. White House Correspondents Association President Olivier Knox issued a statement that declared: 

We strongly condemn the White House’s misguided and inappropriate decision today to bar one of our members from an open press event after she asked questions they did not like. This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak. It cannot stand. Reporters asking questions of powerful government officials, up to and including the President, helps hold those people accountable. In our republic, the WHCA supports the prerogative of all reporters to do their jobs without fear of reprisal from the government.

Other objections have been flooding in from The Washington Post, MSNBC, and even the conservative Washington Times, which said it "goes too far." The right-wing Weekly Standard also ripped Trump, calling the move "irrational."

But don't be surprised if it happens again and again with this White House. Sadly, the press may be unable to do much. The only action beyond protest would be to boycott White House events.
And that is probably what the administration wants.

This is not the only time such action has occurred. You may recall in 2009 President Obama said he would no longer respond to Fox News reporters at the White House. That prompted a similar outcry from the press corp, including CNN. Obama quickly ended the practice.

With Trump, however, I fear his stubbornness and hatred will continue against CNN and likely other news outlets. The best the journalists can do is stay united and speak out against the restrictions. Although it would be interesting to see a boycott of White House news, even for one day.

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