One America News Network (OANN) was removed from White House coronavirus press briefings for what the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) is calling a violation of social distancing policy.
The policy, in compliance with the new norms, was “to restrict seeing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room to comply with CDC guidelines on social distancing. Under this policy, we have asked reporters who don’t have a seat not to attend press briefings. We appreciate all your cooperation as we do our part to ensure the safety of the White House press corps and White House staff during this difficult time.”
The statement from the WHCA goes on to say “we are writing to inform you that the WHCA Board has voted this evening to remove a news outlet from the rotation for a seat in the briefing room. We did this because a reporter for this outlet twice attended press briefings in contravention of this policy. We do not take this action lightly. This is a matter of public safety.”
After the statement was released, and word got out about OANN’s ban, concerns were raised on social media that the WHCA had banned OANN for partisan political bias, and not due to procedural malfeasance.
The removal of OANN from press briefings on coronavirus led many conservative pundits to speculate that it was on ideological grounds.
Claims by left-leaning mainstream media talking heads that OANN is propaganda belied the statement from WHCA.
Chanel Rion was the OANN journalist in question. Her last question to President Trump prior to OANN’s removal was about clinical trials for coronavirus drugs, and was answered by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Only 15 reporters are allowed at press briefings since the new regulations came into place, which leaves news organizations rotating in on a several day cycle. OANN was not scheduled to be in the press room either on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, although Rion was there as a guest of the White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.
According to The Washington Post, Rion and OANN "appear to have gotten special permission from the White House, in violation of the guidelines. The reasons, and the source of the approval, are unclear, but OANN and Rion have a history of reporting favorably about Trump.”
The Washington Post does not note how many outlets that typically frequent the press briefings have a history of reporting disfavourably on the President, or why an outlet’s editorial perspective should have anything to do even tangentially with their presence in the briefing room.
Rion’s non-scheduled presence at the press briefings was called out by ABC News’ White House reporter and WHCA President Jonathan Karl:
“The rules are clear,” Karl said. “If you don’t have a seat in the briefing room on your given day, you cannot be there. The rules are established to protect the health of the White House press corps. We’re abiding by the [Centers for Disease Control’s] guidelines.”
Many observers and experts remain skeptical of the WHCA's true motives.