U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

CNN anchors excluded from lunch with president ahead of State of the Union

Incident Details

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

On Capitol Hill, a television is tuned to CNN for the 2019 State of the Union address by President Donald Trump. This year, anchors from the news outlet were excluded from a traditional pre-event luncheon.

— REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
February 4, 2020

CNN reported that the outlet was excluded from participating in the annual presidential lunch with broadcast and cable anchors ahead of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Feb. 4, 2020.

CNN Business’ Brian Stelter reported that the event — hosted by Trump like presidents before him — is an off-the-record opportunity for anchors to gain insight into the topics the president will cover during the evening’s speech as well as his state of mind.

According to CNN, “This is the first time in recent memory that a president has singled out one network and opted to not invite any anchors from there.” Stelter noted anchor Wolf Blitzer has attended the lunch for more than 20 years.

When asked to confirm whether CNN was banned from the luncheon, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said he could not.

“I can tell you that anybody who has a private lunch that’s off the record can invite whomever they see fit,” Gidley said.

When pressed whether it was right for CNN to be excluded, Gidley responded that the president wants to have a conversation with news outlets about what he plans to discuss and his accomplishments. “And if that has a place for opinion journalism than it does, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” Gidley said.

He didn’t answer further questions on referring to the major news network as “opinion journalism.”

Ahead of last year’s luncheon, Politico reported that despite Trump’s persistent attacks on the media in rallies and tweets, he has typically continued such traditions.

Trump has directed his ire at CNN more than 100 times during his tenure as president, denigrating or insulting the outlet or its reporters in 140 tweets and declining all interview requests. His administration also suspended the press credentials of chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta in November 2018 until a federal court ruled in CNN’s favor.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].