• Vice President Mike Pence has blocked top U.S. health officials from appearing on CNN as part of the network's ongoing coronavirus coverage
  • CNN said this was done as a way to pressure the network into airing the daily White House media briefings, that can run over two hours, in full
  • Other members of the Trump administration have not been blocked from appearing on CNN

The office of Vice President Mike Pence told CNN Thursday that it would not allow U.S. health officials to appear on the network as part of its ongoing coronavirus coverage. CNN was told it would have access to those officials if they began airing the White House’s daily media briefings on the pandemic in full.

“When you guys cover the briefings with the health officials, then you can expect them back on your air,” a spokesperson for Pence told CNN.

Health officials have reportedly been blocked from appearances on CNN for nearly a week.

Pence’s decision stems from CNN’s choice to focus live airtime to President Trump’s portion of the media briefings. After Trump’s portion, CNN said it typically cuts away to “discuss and fact-check” the president’s statements and get back to scheduled programming because media briefings typically run around two hours. This means CNN is not showing briefing segments involving Pence or health officials.

CNN pointed out that NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox have hosted several health officials over the last week, despite covering the briefings in a similar fashion to CNN. Other members of the Trump administration have been allowed to appear on CNN, including Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and trade adviser Peter Navarro.

President Trump also reportedly has refused requests from CNN for an interview during the pandemic. He has only appeared on Fox News for what CNN has described as several “softball interviews.”

It’s the latest in what has been a tense relationship between the network and the Trump administration dating back to the 2016 election. CNN has been a regular target of Trump’s "fake news" accusations and denigration of reporters during media briefings.

The most notable incident occurred in November 2018 when Trump got into a short exchange with CNN correspondent Jim Acosta while discussing the so-called migrant caravans in Central America. Acosta refused to give up the microphone when Trump refused to answer any more questions and later rescinded Acosta’s White House media pass. This led to a lawsuit against the Trump administration by CNN that culminated in Acosta’s pass being restored and the White House outlining new guidelines for media during press conferences.

US Vice President Mike Pence has to explain coronavirus and clean up after his boss
US Vice President Mike Pence has to explain coronavirus and clean up after his boss AFP / JIM WATSON