Saudi Arabia is denying a visa to a Jewish member of the White House press corps to cover President Obama’s visit.
Michael Wilner, a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, said in a statement he had “little doubt that my access was denied either because of my media affiliation or because of my religion.”
Wilner is an associate member of the White House Correspondents’ Association, according to WHCA President Steve Thomma and the WHCA board. He was the only reporter requesting to cover the trip who didn’t get his papers.
In an email to White House reporters, Thomma and the board said:
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.
Pool reporters traveling with Obama in Europe got a statement from National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. From the pool report:
“We were very disappointed by the Saudi decision,” he said. The White House made it clear to the Saudis the importance that the Jerusalem Post reporter have access to cover the trip. “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.”
The decision did not prompt any the White House to reconsider Mr. Obama’s stop in Saudi Arabia Friday and Saturday.
Saudi Arabia is a very important partner to the U.S. But, he said: “We believe its better to have the type of rel where we can cooperate but also be clear and honest with one another where we have differences.”
National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken reportedly expressed their “extreme displeasure” to the Saudis. But we’ve already seen in recent weeks and months the level of respect accorded internationally to White House foot stomping.
So a lot of people are all worked up, but what really will happen in response to this rank anti-semitism from our Saudi partners? Probably nothing.
What should happen is that, if any Saudi news organization, which by definition is a actually a propaganda outfit for Saudi Arabia, is a member of the WHCA, they should be booted out. Their bosses don’t respect freedom of the press. And they hate Jews.
And Obama should cancel his trip and either divert his plane to Israel or tell the Saudis he’s going home to personally turn some shale rock into petroleum.
Sound like a hissy fit? Not really.
It might just send a message worldwide that Obama is not a spineless accommodationist, and that he takes certain principles seriously. The world would take notice, the Israelis might think they have a strong ally, and after some indignant protests, the Saudis would come crawling back and award Mr. Wilner a free two-week stay at the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh.
Wilner is an American. Do you think Putin would tolerate the Saudis barring one of his reporters?
Do you think they’d even try?