- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The White House has taken its rightful criticism of mainstream media and gone too far.

Blocking Kaitlan Collins of CNN from an open Rose Garden press event was a bad move, no matter how President Donald Trump supporters may cheer — no matter if it wasn’t CNN as a whole that was blocked, but only Collins.

The perception of booting a journalist for asking questions that aren’t even over-the-top leaves a bad taste. A bad Barack Obama-type taste.

Collins, pre-boot, had asked this: “Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President. Mr. President, did Michael Cohen betray you? Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors?”

And for that — for those questions, which are actually pretty valid and something many Americans, even pro-Trumpers, are wondering — as well as a couple more about Vladimir Putin, she was denied access to cover an upcoming open media event at the White House.

CNN said in a statement: “Collins was [barred and] told by White House deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders that her questions were ‘inappropriate.’ They were not.”

Agreed. And even if they were — remember this?

“When Obama went to war on Fox News,” blared Newsweek, in a July 2017 headline.

The story goes on to recount media pundit Brian Stelter’s criticisms of the Obama administration’s treatment of the press — or, more to point, of only certain members of the press.

“‘Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic,’ says [Stelter], but ‘to an unusual degree,’ this administration has ‘narrowed its sights to one specific organization,’ which it has deemed ‘part of the political opposition.’ … Stelter didn’t write those words about President Donald Trump,” Newsweek reported, back in 2017. “Stelter wrote those words in 2009, for The New York Times, and he wrote them about President Barack Obama, who was then in the midst of a furious battle with Fox News.”

Obama, over his eight years in the White House, was roundly slammed for his mocking and public shaming of Fox — and for generally being a thin-skinned pansy when it came to news that painted his administration in critical-slash-truthful lights.

But Trump’s not a pansy.

His White House doesn’t need to boot a journalist just because the questions are bothersome.

Trump could just get on Twitter and score his points there.

Sure, Sanders released this statement, clarifying the White House view of things and pointing out that CNN could’ve sent another journalist to the open press event in Collins’ place.

“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,” Sanders said in a statement. “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.”

But the explanation doesn’t really matter.

In the end, the perception is the president didn’t like Collins’ questions, so the White House barred her from the next press event.

And that’s the move of dictatorships, not democratic-republics. That’s the move of weak leaders like Obama, not bulldogs types like Trump.

Stifling the press, stifling the First Amendment, just doesn’t fly in a free America — and nor should it, no matter which political party is in charge.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.


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