The White House on Friday reportedly blocked press from covering the president’s meeting with the Columbia University fencing team after it was reported that members of the team planned to confront him during their visit.
The news came Friday in a tweet from The Washington Post reporter David Nakamura.
“The WH appears to have blocked press pool from covering Trump’s photo op with @columbiafencing after initially saying a ‘supplemental pool’ would be let in,” Nakamura tweeted just before noon on Friday. “This came after WaPo reported that team members planned to confront Trump over gender issues.”
As The Washington Post previously reported, the coed fencing team, which in March won the national title for the 16th time, planned to wear matching white lapel pins to their visit to the White House on Friday.
Following their initial invitation to meet with the president, the team members supposedly mulled over whether to attend the event at all. According to The Washington Post report, some members — about half — of the team decided to not attend the meeting, due to scheduling conflicts or political disagreements.
Per The Washington Post, the team reportedly planned to hand him a letter criticizing his stances on gender-related issues.
“We as collegiate fencers have committed our athletic careers to understanding how our individual strengths, irrespective of gender, may be best leveraged for the advancement of the collective,” the letter reads, according to The Washington Post, which received copy. “But while ours is a victory born from values of gender equality, yours is one shadowed by continued acts of gender-based prejudice and partisanship.”
Some members have reportedly said they planned to hold copies of the letter in their photo with the president.
Specifically, members of the fencing team reported having issues with the president’s attempts to change Title IX protections, his administration’s stances on reproductive rights, and the administration’s response to reports of sexual assault on college campuses throughout the country. The team also said it will attempt to draw attention to the president’s rhetoric about women. As The Washington Post noted, the president stands accused of sexual assault by some 16 women.
“It’s one thing to decline the invitation, but that’s quiet,” team captain Nolen Scruggs told The Washington Post of why some on the team decided to take the meeting. “This is making noise and causing a ruckus and starting a discussion.”
The Washington Post reports that this is not the first time the White House has attempted to avoid direct criticism of the president.