CNN has joined several other media outlets — namely the Associated Press and Environment and Energy Publishing (E&E News) — in complaining after they were shut out of a speech given by EPA chief Scott Pruitt on Tuesday morning. The speech was a part of the National Leadership Summit on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and addressed harmful chemicals in water.
After being redirected to a livestream of the event, which organizers said was closed due to limited seating, CNN released a statement.
“Today, CNN was turned away from covering the PFAS National Leadership Summit at the EPA after multiple attempts to attend. While several news organizations were permitted, the EPA selectively excluded CNN and other media outlets. We understand the importance of an open and free press and we hope the EPA does, too.”
The Associated Press, after stating that one of their reporters had been forcibly removed by security after asking to speak to an EPA public affairs person, also provided a statement via executive editor Sally Buzbee.
“The Environmental Protection Agency’s selective barring of news organizations, including the AP, from covering today’s meeting is alarming and a direct threat to the public’s right to know about what is happening inside their government. It is particularly distressing that any journalist trying to cover an event in the public interest would be forcibly removed.”
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox countered with his own statement, noting that the reporters were given access to a live feed and that they were made aware of the limited seating prior to the event.
“This was simply an issue of the room reaching capacity, which reporters were aware of prior to the event. We were able to accommodate 10 news outlets and provided a livestream for those we could not accommodate.”
According to The Hill, a few of the invited media outlets did not use their allotted seats and at least one reporter who had a seat inside the room opted for the livestream instead — because journalists were also notified prior to the speech that Pruitt would not be taking questions anyway. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Scott Pruitt’s Head Bodyguard Takes On The ‘False Dirty Laundry’ Being Spread About EPA [VIDEO])
The remainder of the summit was opened to all members of the press, according to a statement issued later on Tuesday. “EPA is opening the second portion of today PFAS Leadership Summit to press. The first portion was available via livestream. This will start at 1:00 PM and last until 5:30 PM and you can enter via the East Entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.”