We live in a country where the leader rails against the press as enemies of the people and reporters are shot and killed on newsroom floors. This isn't some distant communist regime or fictional banana republic, this is the current reality of America today, and Trump just upped the ante on his way with a free press.
The White House took retaliatory action against Kaitlan Collins, a White House reporter for CNN, after Collins asked President Trump questions at an Oval Office photo op on Wednesday.
CNN, rival networks, and the White House Correspondents Association all spoke out against the administration's action.
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."
A video clip of the exchange shows that Collins was speaking the same way journalists in the press pool usually speak.
Collins said she reacted by saying, "You're banning me from an event because you didn't like the questions I asked."
Collins said Shine and Sanders asserted that "we're not banning your network. Your photographers can still come. Your producers can still come. But you are not invited to the Rose Garden today."
This is definitely the work of disgraced former FOX News chief Bill Shine as the White House's new communications head, a move so blatantly obvious and shocking that even White House State Media took notice.
The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents reporters seeking access to the White House, also issued a statement protesting the action.
“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,” wrote WHCA president Olivier Knox. “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.”
Collins, who referred questions to CNN representatives, detailed the episode on CNN, prompting anchor Wolf Blitzer to say the White House should issue a formal apology. “This is outrageous,” said Blitzer, a former White House correspondent. “It doesn’t happen and shouldn’t happen in the United States.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who was on CNN when the news was announced, said, “This kind of, really, violation of a reporter’s rights is an offense against the First Amendment interests of all of us.”
In response to the incident, Fox News anchor Bret Baier tweeted his support: “As a member of the White House Press pool- @FoxNews stands firmly with @CNN on this issue and the issue of access.”
For the WHCA to actually develop a spinal column and for anyone from FOX News to make a peep over this makes this huge. Steve M. points out over at his place that Collins was a former Daily Caller reporter before joining CNN, and that's why FOX's Bret Baier is clearly worried.
Still though, keep an eye on Bill Shine, and keep in mind his culture of constant sexual harassment when running FOX News. It's no wonder then that his first two notable acts upon joining the White House was to punish two conservative media women for not being sufficiently deferential to Trump: to hang Sarah Huckabee Sanders out to dry earlier in the week and to punish Kaitlan Collins yesterday.
Shine is sending out a message to his own staff and now to the WH press corps. The question now is if anyone will choose to do anything about it.