Thursday, February 28, 2019

In today's Times:

White House Bars 4 U.S. Journalists From Trump’s Dinner With Kim in Hanoi

President Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, at a dinner on Wednesday in Hanoi, Vietnam. The White House prohibited several journalists from covering the event.CreditEvan Vucci/Associated Press

President Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, at a dinner on Wednesday in Hanoi, Vietnam. The White House prohibited several journalists from covering the event.CreditCreditEvan Vucci/Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The White House on Wednesday barred four American journalists from covering President Trump’s dinner with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in Hanoi, Vietnam, after two of the reporters called out questions to Mr. Trump at an earlier appearance.
It is highly unusual for a presidential administration to retaliate against reporters by restricting their access, particularly at a closely scrutinized foreign summit meeting. Given the backdrop — a United States president meeting with the totalitarian leader of a country with no independent media — the move sent a starkly different message from those delivered in such settings by Mr. Trump’s predecessors, who often sought to encourage expressions of press freedom when meeting with representatives of autocratic regimes.
Shortly before the dinner was to start, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, informed the group of journalists traveling with Mr. Trump that only photographers and television-camera operators would be allowed to attend the event, excluding reporters for several print and radio news outlets.
Ms. Sanders cited the “sensitivities” of the meeting and “shouting” by reporters at a previous appearance by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, during which a reporter for The Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire, asked the president to comment on the congressional testimony of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

Mr. Trump and his aides frequently complain about journalists’ habit of asking questions during his formal appearances with world leaders, deeming the practice — traditionally a standard procedure for White House reporters — impertinent and discourteous. In one case last year, a CNN reporter was barred from a Rose Garden news conference after aides objected to her calling out questions to Mr. Trump; the inquiries at issue then also involved Mr. Cohen.
In Hanoi on Wednesday, several American photojournalists objected to Ms. Sanders’s plan, telling her they would not photograph Mr. Trump’s appearance if other reporters were not allowed in the room.
The White House ultimately agreed to allow in one print reporter, from The Wall Street Journal. Reporters from The A.P., Bloomberg News, The Los Angeles Times and Reuters — whose reporter Jeff Mason asked an earlier question about Mr. Trump’s commitment to denuclearization — were kept out.
“Due to the sensitive nature of the meetings, we have limited the pool for the dinner to a smaller group,” Ms. Sanders said in an emailed statement. She added, “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.”
The action was quickly denounced by American news organizations and press advocates.
“The Associated Press decries such efforts by the White House to restrict access to the president,” Lauren Easton, a spokeswoman for The A.P., said. “It is critically important that any president uphold American press freedom standards, not only at home but especially while abroad.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association issued a statement calling the administration’s move “capricious.”
“This summit provides an opportunity for the American presidency to display its strength by facing vigorous questioning from a free and independent news media, not telegraph weakness by retreating behind arbitrary last-minute restrictions on coverage,” Olivier Knox, the association’s president, said.
Tussles between journalists and presidential aides over access are common. But when previous presidents traveled abroad, the White House typically advocated journalists’ rights, at times defying foreign officials who tried to bar American reporters from asking questions at events.
Mr. Trump is fond of referring to journalists as “the enemy of people.” In recent months, the White House has sharply reduced the number of press briefings it gives and has cracked down on reporters who call out questions during the president’s public appearances. Reporters have publicly and privately been warned by White House aides that it is inappropriate to ask Mr. Trump questions in that context (never mind that Mr. Trump often answers).
Last fall, the White House signaled that it would issue new rules of decorum for reporters after a confrontation between Mr. Trump and the CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, whose security pass was temporarily revoked after he refused to cede the microphone at a news conference.
Mr. Trump himself seemed more receptive on Wednesday to journalists chronicling his activities in photos rather than words.
“Everybody having a good time?” he asked when reporters were eventually ushered in to observe his dinner with Mr. Kim. He singled out a photojournalist for The New York Times, Doug Mills, telling Mr. Kim that Mr. Mills was “one of the great photographers of the world.”
“Make us look very good!” the president added, as the shutters snapped.

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