When the shoe was on the other foot in the Obama administration, other news outlets came to Fox’s defense, including CNN. Last night Bret Baier returned the favor, criticizing the White House for punishing CNN’s Kaitlan Collins for shouting out questions during an earlier press spray. Baier read a statement from Fox News’ president on the air, and later added his own thoughts on Twitter:
.@FoxNews backs @CNN after White House bars reporter:
“We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press” Fox President Jay Wallace says in statement. @BretBaier echoes on air: https://t.co/izsdbConcx
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) July 25, 2018
Some Fox News viewers were less than pleased with Baier’s defense of CNN, but Baier stood his ground:
When President Obama’s administration left us out of round robin interviews — CNN and @jaketapper spoke out for us. As a member of the WH press pool – on the news side – that’s what is supposed to happen. https://t.co/cDci9VUxJP
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) July 26, 2018
The White House started swinging back this morning, claiming that Collins had acted disrespectfully in having “shouted” questions at Trump:
The White House Wednesday evening said that Collins “shouted questions and refused to leave despite repeatedly being asked to do so.”
Collins was then informed “she was not welcome to participate in the next event,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. She added that another journalist from her network could attend, though.
“To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House,” Sanders said .
Is that what happened, though? Video of the incident emerged yesterday, and it seems that the only sin committed by Collins is being too close to a microphone during the press spray. A number of reporters were asking questions, and Collins’ voice doesn’t appear to be the loudest in the room, nor were her questions posed disrespectfully:
Here's the video.
— Ray Steele (@RaySteeleRTV6) July 26, 2018
“Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?” Collins asked Trump as reporters shouted questions and White House press aides tried to usher them out of the room.
She repeated the question after Trump declined to answer. After receiving no answer, she asked, “Are you worried about what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors?” She also asked Trump if he is worried about what might be on any other tapes recorded by Cohen, and why Russian President Vladimir Putin had not yet accepted Trump’s invitation to come to Washington.”
Not only is this a legitimate and newsworthy topic, it’s one that Trump himself raised on Twitter just a few hours earlier. “What kind of a lawyer tapes a client?” Trump asked, just a couple of days after having questioned the legality of the practice. None of those questions are asked disrespectfully nor particularly loudly, for that matter. The shouts of the White House comms team almost overshadow Collins despite her proximity to the microphone in this video clip.
Reporters ask questions during press sprays all the time, and occasionally get answers from the president during them, so it’s not at all outside of the normal protocol — certainly not so much that it warrants an ejection from a subsequent event. If the beef is that Collins didn’t exit the room fast enough, then that applies to every other member of the press pool that was in the room at the time.
Despite some arguments floating around that the Obama team punished similar behavior, the incidents cited involve disruption of speeches and remarks, which is not at all what happened yesterday, as Guy Benson points out:
Lotta RT’s for this thread, which is chock full of false equivalencies. Team Obama had all sorts of problems on transparency & press relations — but nearly all of these “counterpoints” are whataboutist distortions that aren’t comparable to what happened yesterday. https://t.co/oSY1OlSBkp
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) July 26, 2018
Obama’s administration was routinely blasted for opacity & flouting transparency. They spied on journos to try to catch leakers. They attempted to freeze out Fox. All of that won them criticism from usually-friendly (read: nearly all) outlets. None of it excuses Trump WH actions.
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) July 26, 2018
When reporters become activists and hecklers, then they should be expelled, and the White House Correspondents Association should revoke their credentials. But when reporters do their jobs by asking questions, the White House shouldn’t punish them for it. When the Obama administration tried to freeze Fox News out, other media outlets came to its defense, and many of us ripped Obama and Anita Dunn for their war on Fox News. Baier’s correct in treating this in a consistent and fair manner, and we should all follow that example.