CNN bans White House pool reporters from debate room 

washington — The White House Correspondents’ Association said Thursday that CNN had rejected multiple requests to include White House pool reporters inside the studio during the first presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and Republican rival Donald Trump. 

The press pool, made up of representatives of major news organizations, accompanies the president on foreign and domestic trips and normally has access to any event where he speaks or appears in public, with the goal of keeping the U.S. public informed. 

It is extremely rare for it to be barred from an event in the United States. 

“WHCA is deeply concerned that CNN has rejected our repeated requests to include the White House travel pool inside the studio,” Kelly O’Donnell, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said in a statement. 

“The pool is there for the ‘what ifs?’ in a world where the unexpected does happen,” she said, and to provide “context and insight by direct observation and not through the lens of the television production.” 

These reporters are there to see what is said and done when the microphones and cameras are off, and provide independent observation, she wrote, with duties “separate from the production of the debate as a news event.” 

O’Donnell said both the Biden and Trump campaigns agreed to the WHCA’s request. 

CNN has agreed to allow only one White House print pool reporter to enter the studio during a commercial break to “briefly observe the setting.” 

The network will also allow still photographers from other outlets to cover the candidates inside the studio and will provide a television feed of the debate to other networks. 

CNN has put in place many other rules for the first showdown, including two commercial breaks, no props and muted microphones except when the candidates are recognized to speak. The network did not respond to a request for comment. 

“Precedent matters for future debates,” O’Donnell said, alluding to the next Biden-Trump face-off in September. 

The National Association of Black Journalists also asked CNN to accredit reporters from local Black-owned news organizations, after none of Atlanta’s Black news groups got credentials to be on-site for the debate.

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