White House, correspondents express dismay at Saudi Arabia for blocking journalist


McClatchy Washington Bureau

The White House and a group that argues for greater press access to President Obama were on the same page Tuesday, protesting the Saudi Arabian government’s decision to not issue a visa to a reporter for the Jerusalem Post to cover Obama’s visit.

Michael Wilner, who covers the White House for the newspaper, had signed up to cover Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia on Friday, seeking a visa along with the rest of the White House press corps. But after keeping his American passport for two weeks -- and despite high level pleading from the White House -- the Saudi government wouldn’t issue him a visa.

The White House Correspondents’ Association condemned the decision, calling it “outrageous.

“The denial is an affront not only to this journalist, but to the entire White House press corps and to the principle of freedom of the press that we hold dear,” the board’s president, McClatchy’s Steven Thomma and the board said in a statement.

The White House also protested the decision.

“We are deeply disappointed that this credible journalist was denied a visa,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokesperson for the National Security Council. “We will continue to register our serious concerns about this unfortunate decision.”

The Post reported that the Saudi government refused entry to Wilner, “despite firmly-worded requests to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. from U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice and assistant to the president, Tony Blinken.

Wilner is an associate member of the White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the reporters covering the White House.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling with Obama aboard Air Force One that the administration was “very disappointed” and that the White House had made it clear to the Saudis it was important to give the reporter access .

“It certainly should not be the case that the affiliation of a journalist should in any way count against their ability to do their job, just because they work for the Jerusalem Post,” Rhodes said.

He said the decision didn’t prompt the White House to reconsider Obama’s trip Friday and Saturday.

Rhodes said the U.S. has disagreements with Saudi Arabia on a number of issues, including Israel and human rights.

“But we also share a significant set of interests with Saudi Arabia,” Rhodes said. “They’re a very important partner of ours in the Gulf, and we believe it's better to have the type of relationship where we can cooperate but also be clear and honest with one another where we have differences.”

The Jersusalem Post in an editorial suggested that the denial was a way of covering over the fact that Saudi Arabia and Israel do have united interests, including preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

North Korean women, dressed in traditional Chogori watch a pro wrestling exhibition, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Koreans got their first look at pro wrestling in about 20-years on Saturday when former NFL lineman Bob "The Beast" Sapp, and 20 other fighters from around the world took to the ring for an exhibition in Pyongyang, put together by colourful Japanese pro-wrestler Kanji "Antonio" Inoki, who is now a member of parliament.

    Pro wrestling returns to the ring in North Korea

    North Koreans got their first look at pro wrestling in about 20 years on Saturday when an ex-NFL lineman and 20 other grapplers from around the world took to the ring for an exhibition put together by a charismatic former Japanese pro-wrestler who is now a member of parliament.

  • Health law factors into governor's, Senate races

    Democrats Mark Pryor and Mike Ross took different positions on the president's federal health overhaul plan when it came before Congress four years ago. But, running in the two hottest races in Arkansas this fall, both find themselves under attack on the issue and navigating around it as they struggle to prevent a complete Republican takeover of the state's top offices.

  • Common Core an issue in competitive governor race

    An underfunded and little-known Democratic candidate for governor has found a new issue on which to attack incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category