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.