Despite mounting criticism from a number of networks within the White House press pool, the Trump administration appears to be standing by its decision to bar a CNN reporter from a presidential press event. When questioned about the incident Thursday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the media should show "more respect" and not shout questions at the president.
"I think that the question isn't are the press allowed to ask questions, this president obviously isn't afraid of questions. We answer them routinely," Conway said Thursday while speaking to reporters outside the White House. "That incident aside, just being polite to the process, to the presidency, to the protocol, and not shouting questions long after the press has politely been asked to leave, long after you've had opportunity to be there with the president, I think it's a very reasonable request."
CNN announced Wednesday that Kaitlan Collins, the network's White House correspondent, had been barred from attending a presidential press event in the Rose Garden after White House communications officials rebuked her for shouting questions to the president as he sat for photos with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a press-pool spray in the Oval Office. It is not uncommon for a government official to take question during a press-pool spray.
According to CNN, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Collins her questions were "inappropriate."
"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," CNN said in a statement Wednesday. "This decision to bar a member of the press is retaliatory in nature and not indicative of an open and free press."
According to the Washington Post, Collins' questions pertained to an audio recording of Trump, then a presidential candidate, speaking with attorney Michael Cohen about an alleged hush-money payment to a former Playboy model claiming to have had an affair with Trump.
A number of individual news outlets have since condemned the Trump administration's decision to bar Collins and issued statements of support for her. The White House Correspondents' Association echoed CNN's characterization of the move as a type of "retaliation," adding that was "wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak" in a statement of their own. "Reporters asking questions of powerful government officials, up to and including the president, helps hold those people accountable," they said.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier also tweeted a brief statement of support and solidarity, saying the network "stands firmly with @CNN on this issue and the issue of access."
On Thursday, however, Conway sought to defend the controversial decision. "That incident aside, I'm just speaking more broadly, the civility that you all call for sometimes when you're in your broadcasts, I think it should start here at the White House, and just show a little bit more respect," Conway told reporters, stressing that the Trump administration answers questions all day long. "I think it's the shouting and the pouting long after the press corps has been politely asked to leave the room."