“This administration believes in the freedom of the press,” Pence told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo in an interview airing Sunday. “But maintaining the decorum that is due at the White House... is an issue that we’ll continue to work forward.”
The White House was hit with intense backlash from dozens of journalists and media outlets on Wednesday after it disinvited CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, representing five television networks as the day’s chosen pool reporter, from a press event.
Collins was told by the White House that at a brief gathering earlier in the day, she had asked President Donald Trump “inappropriate” questions and had refused to leave the Oval Office, according to CNN. Collins and other reporters present at the time disputed the White House’s claim.
Several cable news networks, including Fox News, issued statements expressing solidarity with CNN and calling for reporters’ full access to press events.
Despite Trump’s repeated attacks on the press, including falsely accusing outlets of publishing “fake news” and calling journalists the “enemy of the people,” Pence told Bartiromo that the administration has provided “extraordinary access to the media.”
“The president answers so many questions in so many different settings, and I can assure that we’ll continue to do that,” Pence said.
While Trump occasionally takes impromptu questions from reporters at various gatherings, he hasn’t held a solo press conference since February 2017.
Pence deflected when asked by Bartiromo whether shutting out Collins was like shutting out “everybody” from the press event.
“I would leave that decision to the White House staff,” he said. “We’ll make sure that every network, every major news organization, continues to have access because we stand for the freedom of the press in this White House.”
Trump and New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, meanwhile, found themselves offering vastly different takes on a meeting they had earlier this month at the White House that focused on journalistic matters.
The president tweeted on Sunday that they spent “much time” discussing “the vast amount of Fake News being put out,” his erroneous phrase for stories that displease him.
But Sulzberger, in a statement to HuffPost, said his “main purpose for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.” He said he told Trump “directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.”
Watch Bartiromo’s full interview with Pence below. His comments on Collins begin around the 11:15 mark.
This story has been updated with details on the Trump-Sulzberger meeting.