Several American journalists were not willing to stick to the topic at hand during a photo opportunity between President Donald Trump and North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un today in Vietnam, CNN reports. Trump’s diplomatically significant meeting with Kim happened to coincide with the public congressional testimony of former Trump associate Michael Cohen, whose statements have dominated the news cycle and largely eclipsed public interest in the Vietnam meeting.
Trump ignored the shouted questions during the photo taking and less than an hour later, the reporters in question had been blocked from subsequent media sessions with the two leaders.
Regarding the blocking of reporters, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders attributed the move to “the sensitive nature of the meetings.”
The White House Correspondents Association was quick to criticize the decision calling it “capricious” and suggesting that the administration was attempting to apply “arbitrary last-minute restrictions on coverage.”
“We call on the White House to not allow a diminution of the previously agreed-to press complement for the remainder of the summit,” the group said in a statement. In the past, United States leaders have advocated for setting a positive democratic example with respect to journalistic access, particularly when it comes to repressive regimes such as North Korea.
President Trump and Kim Jong Un are having dinner in Hanoi. Trump promised North Korea a "tremendous future for your country." Kim said their 2nd summit is thanks to a "courageous political decision" by Trump. Follow live updates: https://t.co/WUyGCAJUkg pic.twitter.com/WZfNtFwSHV— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) February 27, 2019
Some current White House correspondents have attested that the philosophy is different under Trump’s leadership.
“A lot of catering to Kim Jong Un going on in Vietnam,” tweeted CNN’s Jim Acosta. “First press is kicked out of hotel where Kim is staying. Now some reporters are blocked from pool spray because the dictator doesn’t like shouted questions.”
Acosta’s remark about the hotel referred to the unexpected relocation of international media from a Hanoi hotel, where it turned out that Kim himself was staying. Affected reporters from the U.S. complained that the White House should have pushed back on the request and ensured they could stay put.
It was reporters from the Associated Press and Reuters who shouted the questions during the initial meeting between Trump and Kim. Following their questions, it was announced that for future meetings print reporters (those who would ask questions) would be barred, while photographers and videographers (who typically wouldn’t ask questions) would be present.
“Sanders informed us that no print reporters would be allowed in due to sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous [sessions],” according to Vivian Salama of the Wall Street Journal, a print journalist who would have been barred if not for a show of press solidarity in which photographers said they would not participate either.
As a result, Salama will be the one print reporter allowed access to the next session.