The White House banned all but one print journalist from covering a dinner between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday, after initially banning print journalists altogether, apparently due to shouted questions.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, explaining what The Washington Post called “an extraordinary act of retaliation by the U.S. government”:
“Due to the sensitive nature of the meetings we have limited the pool for the dinner to a smaller group, but ensured that representation of photographers, tv, radio and print Poolers are all in the room. We are continuing to negotiate aspects of this historic summit and will always work to make sure the U.S. media has as much access as possible.”
Initially, according to print pool reporter Vivian Salama of The Wall Street Journal, the White House banned print reporters altogether, only to walk back the ban when photojournalists joined print reporters’ protests. One radio journalist was reportedly also allowed in.
Before Sanders’ statement, Salama wrote of the situation:
“Please note: your print pooler is the only print reporter who will be allowed into the final spray tonight with Chairman Kim. (Originally Sarah Sanders informed us that no print reporters would be allowed in due to sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays. But when our photo colleagues joined us in protest, they decided to allow one print reporter in)”
The Post reported that banned reporters included those from the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters.
An AP spokesperson said of the ban:
“The Associated Press decries such efforts by the White House to restrict access to the president. It is critically important that any president uphold American press freedom standards, not only at home but especially while abroad.”
Salama said she saw “at least one [North Korean] still photographer and one cameraman,” at the dinner.
The situation recalled when all American press — but not a photographer from the Russian state-run TASS network — were barred from an Oval Office meeting between President Donald Trump and senior Russian officials the day after FBI Director James Comey was fired.
The barring of all but one print journalist follows the shooing of journalists from a hotel the White House double booked with Kim’s delegation.