The White House press corps has joined the Obama administration’s protest over Saudi Arabia’s refusal to grant entry to a Jewish reporter in the entourage of President Barack Obama’s visit to the kingdom this week.
The White House Correspondents’ Association issued a statement denouncing the Saudi decision to deny Jerusalem Post Washington bureau chief Michael Wilner access to the event.
“It is outrageous that the Saudi government has refused to allow a White House reporter entry to the country to cover this week’s visit of President Barack Obama. The denial is an affront not only to this journalist, but to the entire White House press corps and to the principle of freedom of the press that we hold so dear,” the statement added.
The National Press Club, one of the world’s largest professional journalist organizations, joined the condemnations:
“We regret that a member of the White House press corps has been denied access to Saudi Arabia to cover the activities of President Obama during his trip,” said Myron Belkind, president of the National Press Club. “We join our colleagues at the White House Correspondents’ Association in calling for Saudi Arabia to provide access for this reporter.”
The Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman called the Saudi government’s decision “disturbing” in a letter sent to the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Adel Al-Jubier.
Shortly after the White House press corps statement, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor to the president, aired another White House expression of displeasure with the Saudis, saying that America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia had to include “honesty” about the differences between the two nations.
“It certainly should not be the case that the affiliation of a journalist should in any way count against their ability to do their job, just because they work for The Jerusalem Post,” Rhodes, said, adding that the White House is “very disappointed by the Saudi decision.”
U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro quoted National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, who said the U.S. intends to raise the issue with the Saudi leadership.
Wilner is a U.S. citizen who has never lived or worked in Israel.