The White House on Thursday defended its decision to bar a CNN correspondent from attending an open press event but contended it had nothing to do with the questions she asked. Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Kaitlan Collins was denied access to Trump's Rose Garden event with the European Commission president Wednesday because of her refusal to leave the Oval Office during a previous availability with the president, per the AP. She and her employer, CNN, said she was barred because White House officials found her questions "inappropriate," which Gidley disputed. "It had nothing to do with the content of the question," Gidley told reporters aboard Air Force One, adding that Collins "was told repeatedly to leave the Oval Office" during an earlier "pool spray" and refused, "despite staff, Secret Service, everyone trying to usher everyone out of the room."
On whether Trump had decided on the ban, Gidley said, "The president does feel strongly about this." Other journalists in the room disputed the White House account: Numerous reporters had shouted questions, and, as usual, it took some time for the pack of journalists to exit. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday the White House had made clear other CNN journalists were welcome at the Rose Garden event, just not Collins. And earlier Thursday, White House comms chief Bill Shine quibbled with one word: "Would you ask [Collins] if we ever used the word 'ban'?" In a statement Wednesday, CNN called the White House decision "retaliatory in nature." The White House Correspondents' Association also issued a statement condemning "the White House's misguided and inappropriate decision ... to bar one of our members from an open press event after she asked questions they did not like." (Read more White House press corps stories.)