When Chanel Rion appeared unauthorized, OANN threatened to remove it

Apr 3, 2020 1:45 AM ET

But the short Q&A raised its own question: What was Rion doing there?

According to strict new guidelines that were imposed last month by White House representatives and the White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents journalists, access to the cramped meeting room is now limited to around 15 reporters a day to take socially distant measures in the Coronavirus crisis and several smaller news organizations can only change once every few days.

And it wasn’t OANN’s turn on Tuesday. Not even on Wednesday when Rion reappeared in the room – which caused the Association of Correspondents to vote to remove OANN from the rotation.

“We did this because a reporter from this outlet has twice attended press conferences, which violates this policy,” the WHCA board said in a statement late Wednesday. “We are not going lightly. This is a matter of public security. “

Rion and her employer, a tiny conservative cable outlet called OANN, appear to have received special permission from the White House in violation of the guidelines. The reasons and the source of the approval are unclear, but OANN and Rion have had positive reports about Trump in the past. Rion himself has fueled conspiracy theories that fuel his political interests, such as the unsubstantiated claim that Ukrainian officials have secretly rigged the 2016 elections to help Hillary Clinton. Trump, in turn, has tweeted dozens of times about OANN’s reporting.

In fact, Tuesday’s White House changed the rules – which are designed to ensure the health of journalists, the president, and the country’s top health authorities – to allow a correspondent to get access and a national limelight from an obscure, but Trump. friendly news agency.

OANN was founded in 2013 by Robert Herring Sr., a Republican millionaire donor from San Diego who made his fortune in the PCB business before he started in the media. His son Charles Herring, president of One America’s parent company, Herring Broadcasting, told The Post last week that the channel “should only report the news” and that “we would not call our news right-wing.”

For a 2017 story, more than a dozen former and current employees described Robert Herring to The Post as a stubborn unofficial news director who often ordered Trump-friendly reporting. It was the first channel to broadcast Trump’s 2016 campaign speeches live, and internal emails showed Herring that other candidates’ rallies were not getting the same treatment.

Rion, who didn’t respond to repeated requests for comments, talked to the Trumps in Mar-a-Lago and bragged about it on her personal website, according to photos she posted on Facebook, “Aboard Trump from the start Train To Be Week “at the start of the 2016 campaign.

At both the briefings on Tuesday and Wednesday, she was in the back of the press room – and this was also a violation of the guidelines: reporters have to take a seat without standing in the aisles or behind the seating area.

WHCA President Jonathan Karl said he informed White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham and the White House press office on Tuesday that Rion’s presence was “a clear violation” of precautions that the White House has been strictly following for weeks will.

“The rules are clear,” said Karl, White News reporter from ABC News. “If you don’t have a meeting room space on a particular day, you can’t be there. The rules have been established to protect the health of the White House Press Corps. We abide by that [Centers for Disease Control’s] Guidelines.

Grisham declined to comment on Wednesday.

In an email, OANN founder and CEO Charles Herring said that Rion’s presence was “reasonable” and that she was invited to attend the briefing. He refused to say who invited her or why.

Rion attracted attention during the briefings with bizarre or heavily loaded questions. At Monday’s meeting, she compared the number of coronavirus deaths to the number of “children killed by their mothers every day from polls” and then asked the president: “Do you agree with countries that put coronavirus victims above polls?

In a previous briefing, Rion raised Trump’s controversial use of the term “Chinese virus” by rhetorically asking if he viewed the term “Chinese food” as racist because “is it Chinese food?” After Trump politely replied that he didn’t think it was “racist at all,” she went on to argue that “big left media.” . . have teamed up with the Chinese Communist Party’s narratives ”to fuel the President’s criticism for the use of the term.

Rion, a 2015 Harvard graduate who joined OANN last May, has driven some strange conspiracies. In October, she claimed that former FBI attorney Lisa Page and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe had an affair – a story that was later withdrawn by OANN. She later traveled to Ukraine with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to produce a documentary series for OANN on Giuliani’s allegations in support of Trump’s measures to withhold military aid to the country.

During a special report that aired on the network in mid-March, Rion suggested that the coronavirus originated from a “biosafety level three in North Carolina” and was then smuggled and released by lab technicians to China. She cited a “citizen investigator” as the source. None of the claims have been confirmed.

In her earlier days as a political cartoonist, she produced illustrations suggesting that Hillary Clinton was behind the unsolved murder of Seth Rich, a member of the Democratic National Committee, in 2016 – a right-wing conspiracy with no evidence.

On her website, she calls herself “a bitter enemy of everything that is Clinton, of everything that is Obama, and a total and relentless enemy of academic left-wing liberalism and political correctness everywhere”. She is engaged to soon be married to Courtland Sykes, another also in the GOP area code for the 2018 U.S. Senate race in Missouri, which went viral briefly this year when she became feminists on social media as “she devil.” “Beaten up with” snake “. filled heads ”and explains how he expects Rion to prepare“ a homemade dinner every evening at six o’clock ”.

This was, of course, before Rion took on a job that has kept her in the White House lately after 6 p.m. Neither she nor Pellegrino seem to have had much journalistic experience before reporting on the White House for OANN, a network that normally attracts a fraction of the audience who see Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.

Before joining OANN two months ago, Pellegrino was an intern at Bill O’Reilly, a booker for the QVC home shopping network, and a production assistant at Fox News, who, according to her LinkedIn profile, works with sales and business development jobs was.

On Sunday, Trump called Pellegrino twice to ask a question – one he seemed to like immensely.

“Mr. President, your approval ratings were the highest you have ever had, and the ratings of your handling of the virus,” she asked. “However, there are some networks that say they are debating whether these briefings broadcast live should be. Do you think there is a connection between the two? “

“Well, I don’t know,” Trump replied. “I know that – boy, that’s a nice question. Thank you.”

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