Even before President Barack Obama leaves for his much-anticipated visit to Saudi Arabia later this week, controversy has erupted in the White House over the Kingdom’s refusal to grant Michael Wilner, an American-Jewish reporter who is part of the president’s pool, a visa.
"We are deeply disappointed that this credible journalist was denied a visa," Bernadette Meehan, the National Security Council spokesperson, said in statement Tuesday. "We will continue to register our serious concerns about this unfortunate decision."
Wilner, the Jerusalem’s Post’s White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief, was invited by the White House to cover Obama’s first trip of his second term to the Persian Gulf state. Wilner, an American, has no Israeli residency or citizenship. The Jerusalem Post is an Israeli English-language newspaper.
“I am an American journalist covering the travel of an American president,” Wilner told IBTimes in a statement via email. “We have little doubt that my access was denied either because of my media affiliation or because of my religion. That is a grave disappointment and a lost opportunity for the Kingdom."
The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the issue. When IBTimes asked why Saudi Arabia denied the reporter his visa, the embassy merely said, he was “off the list.”