U.S. journalists banned from President Trump's dinner with North Korea's Kim Jong-un

Trump has banned four journalists from his dinner with Kim Jong-un because of concerns over shouted questions

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published February 27, 2019 12:55PM (EST)

Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP/Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Four journalists have been banned from covering President Donald Trump's upcoming dinner with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un because they shouted questions at the president on previous occasions.

Individual reports from the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters were targeted by the White House to be prohibited from covering the upcoming dinner, according to The Washington Post. Initially the plan had been to exclude all reporters from the 13-member traveling White House press pool, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders justifying the decision by claiming that it was done due to "sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays." After reporters and photojournalists loudly opposed her decision, she partially relented and allowed Vivian Salama of The Wall Street Journal, who was serving as the print pooler. Salana did not ask any questions at the dinner.

The banned reporters included two members of the press who had previously asked Trump questions during his summit trip, Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press and Jeff Mason of Reuters. Justin Sink of Bloomberg and Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times had not posed any questions to the president but were also excluded.

"Several print reporters, including the three wire services, were barred from the Trump-Kim dinner after @jeffmason1 and I had asked questions of the president during earlier events," Lemire tweeted on Wednesday morning.

Sanders later released a statement justifying her decision by saying, "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."

When asked if she had limited reporter access at the request of the North Korean government, she declined to answer.

Traditionally speaking presidents insist on granting reporters access to them even when they visit foreign countries, and the precedent has been to particularly emphasize this practice when visiting nations that crack down on free press.

Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary to President George W. Bush, tweeted an anecdote that offered his own take on the practice of reporters questioning presidents during foreign trips.

"I remember this well. The Chinese told American reporters not to ask Qs to Jiang. The WH was fine with you asking Qs, and expected you to do so. I recall after an American reporter did pose a Q to Jiang, Jiang replied in broken English 'no more questions!' Everyone chuckled," Fleischer recalled.

This wasn't the first time that American journalists had been mistreated while covering the Trump-Kim summit. On Tuesday morning a Vietnamese security officer ordered journalists to vacate a hotel even though the administration had previously said that it was acceptable for them to stay there.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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