TV station concedes it doesn't know why CNN turned down 'local view' on border

An executive at a San Diego television station conceded Friday that he didn't know why CNN did not interview a local reporter after asserting the network "declined to hear from us" because past reports from the station showed that a border wall was effective.

KUSI-TV news director Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenDemocrats seek to ban federal spending at Trump businesses Democrats bristle as Hicks appears for daylong Capitol Hill testimony House hearing marks historic moment for slavery reparations debate MORE acknowledged on Friday that he didn’t actually know why CNN turned down an opportunity to interview local reporter Dan Plante, The Associated Press reported.

Cohen initially said he had told CNN that Plante’s previous reporting demonstrated the border wall in the area was effective and might not fit in with CNN’s “narrative.”

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Cohen claimed he did not hear from CNN again and decided to release a statement about the alleged rejection, the AP noted.

KUSI aired a report and posted it to its website with a headline reading "CNN requests KUSI for local view on the border, declines our reporter after finding out walls work." 

"We believe CNN declined a report from KUSI because we informed them that most Border Patrol Agents we have spoken to told us the barrier does in fact work," an report online read. "We have continuously been told by Border Patrol Agents that the barrier along the Southern border helps prevent illegal entries, drugs, and weapons from entering the United States, and the numbers prove it." 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE later shared KUSI’s account of the interaction on his Twitter account Friday.

@CNN called a San Diego news station (@KUSINews) for negative reports on the Wall. When the station said that Walls work, CNN no longer had interest. #FakeNews,” Trump wrote.

The station then published a report about Trump giving a "shoutout" to the station over the initial report.

Cohen, however, told AP that he never actually spoke to anyone at CNN about why Plante wasn’t interviewed.

“It’s certainly plausible that they didn’t want it for the viewpoint, or they just didn’t want it,” he said. “Both are plausible conclusions. I made one rather than the other.”

A CNN spokesperson pushed back on KUSI’s claim on Friday, calling it a “non-story” since the network didn’t end up interviewing reporters from the area.

“This happens many times every single day,” the network said in a statement, adding that plans for segments frequently change.

On Saturday, after the AP and other outlets including The Hill reported on Cohen's latest comments, Cohen issued a statement saying that KUSI was standing by its original assertion.

"We are not backing away. The headline is a fiction, for the issue was never raised. The AP story is factual but the headline is fake news," Cohen said in the statement tweeted by KUSI.

KUSI-TV is an independent station in San Diego that is not affiliated with any broadcast network.

The station is owned by McKinnon Broadcasting Co., whose general manager, Michael McKinnon, was described by the San Diego Business Journal as a “longtime supporter of conservative causes and candidates in the San Diego area,” the AP noted.

The reported dispute came during the ongoing partial government shutdown, which began amid an impasse between Trump and lawmakers over billions of dollars in funding for his long-desired border wall.

The shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, continues as the White House and Congress attempt to negotiate funding for border security. 

– This story was updated at 4:55 p.m. to reflect KUSI's latest statement