White House Correspondents Association removes OAN from briefing rotation

The White House Correspondents Association removed conservative network One America News from the daily White House briefing rotation, after the far-right news outlet’s employee twice attended briefings out of turn. The WHCA did not name the network or the employee.

But the TV personality in question, Chanel Rion, said Thursday on OAN that she still plans to attend Thursday’s briefing scheduled for 5 p.m., she says as a guest of White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. 

The WHCA issued a policy in March restricting seating in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, where the president and vice president have been delivering near-daily briefings on the coronavirus crisis. The rules, issued to protect the health of journalists covering the White House, limit the number of reporters who can be in the room, rotating outlets, which means that news organizations don’t necessarily have a seat each day. And that means some smaller news outlets are in the rotation less frequently. The WHCA says it removed the outlet from the briefing rotation this to comply with CDC guidelines on social distancing, and the association’s decision doesn’t bar the outlet from the White House grounds — only from the briefing rotation. 

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“We do not take this action lightly. This is a matter of public safety,” said a statement from the WHCA Board issued Wednesday. 

Rion was in the room on two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, when OAN wasn’t in the rotation.

“The rule they said I violated was that I was violating social distancing guidelines by standing in the aisle, or standing in that room when I was not allowed to,” Rion explained on OAN Thursday, noting that photographers were in the room, too. 

And Rion said she plans to be back, she says as a guest of Grisham, who has stayed away from the briefing room podium during her tenure as press secretary. 

“I spoke with Stephanie Grisham this morning. I met with her,” Rion said on OAN. “We discussed the situation, and she invited me again to attend the briefing today as her guest, standing in the back. And I will be in the briefing room today if there’s no physical complications with that. She has stated explicitly that she had invited me in both instances, both yesterday and the day before, when we were not on rotation, to stand in the back of the room.”

President Trump participates in the daily coronavirus task force briefing in the Brady Briefing room at the White House on March 31, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

The White House has not issued any statement on the situation, as Rion acknowledged on OAN. 

Charles Herring, the president of OAN, said in an email that OAN was an invited guest to the president’s briefings by Grisham, and that OAN’s presence in the briefing room was “therefore appropriate.” Herring noted the employee stood in the back of the room to observe social distancing, and claimed that the WHCA was aware of the invitation from Grisham “but took retaliatory action anyway.” 

It’s not the first time OAN or Rion has been a focus of controversy at the White House. In March, Rion accused members of the media, including some in the briefing room, of teaming up with the Chinese communist party’s mantra.  

“On that note, major left-wing media, even in this room, have teamed up with Chinese communist party narratives, and they are claiming you are racist for making these claims about ‘Chinese virus,'” Rion told President Trump during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing. “Is it alarming that major media players, just to oppose you, are siding with foreign state propaganda, Islamic radicals, and Latin gangs and cartels and they work right here out of the White House with direct access to you and your team?”

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