The White House criticized the Saudi Arabian government's decision to bar a Jerusalem Post reporter from entering the country to cover President Barack Obama's visit later this week.
Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters Tuesday that the administration is "very disappointed" by the decision not to grant a visa to Jerusalem Post reporter Michael Wilner, a U.S citizen, just days before Obama is scheduled to meet with King Abdullah.
"We expressly reached out to the Saudi government through multiple channels when we became aware of this issue," he said. "We made it clear how important it was to us that this journalist, like any other journalist, have access to cover the President’s trip. And we'll continue to raise our concerns with the Saudis about why this journalist was denied a visa and about our very strong objections to their decision."
Rhodes said the Saudi government did not give the White House a reason for barring Wilner from entering the country. Israel and Saudi Arabia do not maintain diplomatic relations, but have a substantial backchannel relationship, in particular with regards to Iran's nuclear program. Wilner, the Washington bureau chief for the English-language Israeli paper, has never held Israeli citizenship, the paper reported.
"Any journalist should be able to cover the President’s trip if they have the appropriate credentials to do so, and 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.
He added that the White House did not consider scrubbing the visit over the flap. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday that the United States "will continue to register our serious concerns about this unfortunate decision with the Saudi Government."