The White House and the journalists who cover it blasted a decision by Saudi Arabia to deny a visa to a Jerusalem Post reporter to cover President Barack Obama’s trip there.
Michael Wilner, the newspaper’s Washington bureau chief, was denied a visa by the Saudi government on Monday despite requests from National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken on his behalf, the Jerusalem Post reported. He was the only reporter to be turned away.
Unnamed Obama administration officials told the Post that they believe Wilner was discriminated against. According to the paper, Wilner is a Jewish American, does not hold Israeli citizenship and has never lived in Israel.
“We are deeply disappointed that this credible journalist was denied a visa,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “We will continue to register our serious concerns about this unfortunate decision.”
McClatchy reporter Steve Thomma, president of the White House Correspondents Association, called Saudi Arabia’s decision “outrageous.”
“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,” Thomma said in a statement. “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.”
In an email to Politico, Wilner called the situation “unfortunate.”
“U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is a central pillar of our newspaper’s coverage — this trip was important to us. We can only assume Saudi Arabia’s decision was based on discriminatory principles,” Wilner said.
Obama is set to meet with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia when he visits this week. It will be his first visit to the kingdom since the so-called Arab Spring demonstrations that ousted long-serving leaders in the Middle East.
“Saudi Arabia is a close partner of the United States, and we have a bilateral relationship that is broad and deep and covers a range of areas,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said last month when the trip was announced.
A Saudi embassy official told the Jerusalem Post that “the decision has been made” on its correspondent’s visa, but would not elaborate further.
TheBlaze’s Fred Lucas contributed to this report.