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Media barred from University of North Texas event featuring Donald Trump Jr.

When Donald Trump Jr. talks to a room full of University of North Texas supporters later this month, no media will be present unless they purchase a seat. 

Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr.

Media credentials, which allow certain reporters, photographers and other members of the press into the event so they can report on it, will not be issued for the Oct. 24 speech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, said Kelley Reese, a spokeswoman for the university. 

"Thanks for asking about media credentials to attend the Kuehne Speaker Series event featuring Donald Trump, Jr.," she said in an email Monday. "The Kuehne Speaker Series has historically been open only to the guests of table sponsors. This year's series events will be no different."

Reese declined to answer specific questions about why media were barred from the event and who decided members of the press could not attend. She reiterated the event was only open to table sponsors and their guests in an email Tuesday. 

Barring reporters from covering Trump Jr.'s speech is the latest development in controversies swirling around the event. Last month, UNT faculty members sent an open letter to UNT administrators protesting the selection of Trump Jr. as a speaker. The letter was signed by 87 faculty members. 

Trump was announced as a speaker in the Kuehne Speaker Series in August. The event is sponsored by private donors, such as Ryan LLC, the company owned by G. Brint Ryan, chairman of the UNT Board of Regents. 

There is no legal precedent requiring this type of event be open to press coverage, but that doesn't mean it's ethical to keep out the press, said Donnis Baggett, executive vice president of the Texas Press Association.

"Whether UNT has a legal responsibility to allow press coverage may be open to question," he said. "But one could argue that a public university has a responsibility to its constituents, the taxpayers of Texas, to do so."

Sponsors, including some UNT deans, are paying a minimum of $5,000 for a table of eight. The contract between the university and Trump calls for him to be paid $100,000 for his appearance. The contract does not address media coverage. 

"I think this is a sign of the times, and it’s not a good sign," Baggett said. "It’s more evidence that the media is being portrayed as an obstacle to democracy and it’s quite the opposite. An informed public is essential in a democracy."

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.