Pence bars coronavirus task force members from appearing on CNN: report
Vice President Pence’s office has barred members of the coronavirus task force from appearing on CNN for the past week, according to a report from the outlet.
The contention appears to stem from CNN not carrying portions of the daily White House coronavirus task force briefings, including some question and answer sessions with top medical members including Anthony Fauci, an epidemiologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Deborah Birx, a physician coordinating the White House response to the virus.
“When you guys cover the briefings with the health officials then you can expect them back on your air,” a Pence spokesperson told CNN.
The back-and-forth is another chapter in the ongoing feud between the administration and CNN.
President Trump often refers to CNN as “fake news” at rallies and on social media, and hasn’t personally appeared on the network since August 2016.
Pence’s office is responsible for approving media appearances by task force members.
The decision appears to have begun following a report by CNN’s Jim Acosta on April 3, when the chief White House correspondent reported Fauci had been excluded from appearing at the task force’s daily briefing that day.
Fauci told PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor the report was “absolutely not true” and reiterated his denial to CNN.
NEW: Dr. Fauci just told me it is “absolutely not true” that he was excluded from today’s WH briefing. “It was just a matter of how many ppl you want up there & the subject matter was much more suited to the Surgeon General & the Director of the CDC. There is no problem at all.”
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) April 3, 2020
Acosta told CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer during a report outside the White House on April 3 that Fauci “has reached out to CNN to say that he was not excluded.”
Fauci has taken part in five CNN coronavirus town halls over the past five weeks, but will not appear in the network’s town hall scheduled for Thursday night.
The nation’s top infectious disease specialist has also conducted interviews across the media spectrum on traditional and nontraditional outlets, including on Barstool Sports’s “Pardon My Take” and on Instagram with NBA star Steph Curry, in part to get the word out about social distancing practices he has championed as a way to flatten the curve of the coronavirus.
Over the past week, the White House has made other top officials available to CNN, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper on “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper and trade adviser Peter Navarro on “Anderson Cooper 360” and “New Day.”
“The task force and the White House are extremely proud of the multifaceted media strategy that is being run to not only to traditional network news channels, but also non-traditional mediums like podcasts, Instagram and Facebook Live, and other speciality and targeted media outreach,” a White House spokesperson told The Hill.
“This has allowed us to go directly where the viewer and listeners are, and to provide updates on the the efforts to combat the coronavirus,” the spokesperson added.
The Hill has reached out to CNN for comment.
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