In a rare show of cross-network solidarity, Fox News defended CNN after a reporter was banned from a White House press conference on Wednesday. The correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, said that the White House denied her entry to the Rose Garden because White House officials supposedly had found some of her questions earlier in the day to be inappropriate. In a clip produced by CNN, Collins' questions earlier in the day had included her asking the president if he felt "betrayed" by Michael Cohen, and if he felt nervous about what Cohen might say to prosecutors.
At the time, Collins was the pool reporter for the day, meaning that she was representing the rest of the television networks in asking a series of questions that they would all then have access to.
Trump didn't answer any of her questions throughout the day, but they seemed to bother him or one of his officials enough that she was eventually barred from attending the surprise press conference later in the day, in which Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker revealed a joint plan to work towards a "zero tariff" relationship.
Of Collins' barring from the press conference, CNN first made a statement defending its correspondent: "Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question regarding the news of 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. We demand better.”
Then, Fox News chimed in with its support of CNN and shared belief in a free press. In a similar statement, Fox News President Jay Wallace said, "We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press."
But the Fox News support didn't stop there. Later on in the day during an airing of Special Report, Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier said, “As a member of the White House press pool, Fox stands firmly with CNN on this issue of access."
Fox News' decision to defend CNN is particularly surprising because of the two news networks' perceived feud with one another, which has only grown in intensity since Trump took office. As Pau Farhi of The Washington Post noted earlier this year,
The mutual backbiting between the two has become so routine that it can be easy to forget how unusual it is. NBC News doesn’t regularly lay into ABC News; The Washington Post doesn’t often go after the New York Times. Nor do CNN or Fox criticize other news media outlets as frequently as they do each other.
However, as Trump's mistreatment of CNN reporters has continued, members of Fox News have increasingly begun to stick up for the news network, as well as the reporters who work for it. Earlier this month, Fox News correspondent John Roberts moved to defend CNN and NBC News after Trump publicly insulted the networks and their reporters during a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
During the press conference, Trump actively refused to call upon CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, saying, “No, No, CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN. John Roberts from Fox. Let’s go to a real network.”
In a subsequent statement to TheWrap, Roberts said of the event, “I know Kristin Welker of NBC. She is honest as the day is long. For the President to call her dishonest is unfair. I also used to work at CNN. There are some fine journalists who work there and risk their lives to report on stories around the world. To issue a blanket condemnation of the network as ‘fake news’ is also unfair.”
In a similar act of defense, Fox News' Melissa Francis pointed out how poorly Acosta had been treated at a Trump rally in June.
“I don’t like what was done to Jim Acosta," she said to The Washington Examiner. "I think having been a reporter in that position, you can crank up, you know, what you’re hearing in your ear, and you can kind of block it out and he was really professional in blocking it out there. But I don’t think that was fair or right.”
As for Collins, she maintains that she wasn't acting inappropriately when she asked the president questions earlier in the day. To CNN, she said, "I'm from Alabama. I'm not rude. I believe you should always be polite when you ask a question. I totally believe that."