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White House press corps 'outraged' at Saudi visa denial for 'Post' correspondent
By MAYA SHWAYDER
03/25/2014
Denial of visa to 'Post' correspondent Michael Wilner called "an affront not only to this journalist, but to the entire White House press corps."
 
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON -- The White House continued its criticism of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for denying The Jerusalem Post's Washington bureau chief, Michael Wilner, access to US President Barack Obama during his trip to the country this week, just days before he was due to arrive.

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor to the president, said aboard Air Force One 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."

Just before Rhodes' made the comments, the White House Correspondents' Association also issued a statement denouncing the Kingdom's decision.

"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 White House press corps said in a statement, in a display of solidarity with Wilner.

"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.

Earlier on Tuesday, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf responded to the diplomatic flap noting that the US is still "deeply disappointed," adding that their sentiments would be expressed once the president arrives in Riyadh.

"As you heard from our (National Security Council) colleagues, we are still deeply disappointed that this credible journalist, your colleague, who often sits in this room, in the second row, was denied a visa," Harf said. The State Department would "continue to register our concern," she added.

Harf said she did not have further details and deferred to the Saudi government when asked what the reason was for the denial.

Meanwhile, US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro shared on Twitter and Facebook the comments of National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, who said the US intends on raising this issues with Saudi leadership.

Wilner is a US citizen. While Jewish, he has never lived or worked in Israel, and has not pursued Israeli citizenship.
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