Saudi Arabia denies visa to White House correspondent

Saudi Arabia denies visa to White House correspondent
Saudi King Abdullah, pictured here Jan. 5, will host President Obama this week. (Brendan Smialowski / Associated Press)

BRUSSELS —   The White House said it is “very disappointed” by Saudi Arabia’s decision to deny a visa to a White House reporter for the Jerusalem Post who applied to cover President Obama’s visit to that Middle East nation this week.

The Kingdom did not offer an explanation for its decision to bar Michael Wilner, the paper’s White House correspondent, from entering to cover two-day meeting  between Obama and King Abdullah, the Jerusalam Post reported.

Senior White House officials lobbied unsuccessfully on behalf of Wilner.

"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," deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said Tuesday.

Wilner sought the visa along with dozens of the other reporters who travel with the president when he goes overseas.

Wilner was the only journalist in the White House Press Corps denied access, according to the White House Correspondents Assn., which issued a statement calling the decision "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."

Rhodes said the decision did not force the White House to reconsider Obama's stop in Saudi Arabia. He said the Arab ally is a very important partner to the U.S.

"We believe it's better to have the type of relationship where we can cooperate but also be clear and honest with one another where we have differences."

Twitter: @khennessey