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Ocasio-Cortez faces heat for excluding media from town hall events

Washington (CNN) Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez faced criticism this week for barring media from attending two of her town hall events in New York that were otherwise open to the public.

Ocasio-Cortez banned media from attending two of her "listening tour" events, Wednesday in the Bronx and Sunday in Corona, Queens, according to local newspaper Queens Chronicle.

"Our community is 50% immigrant. Folks are victims of (domestic violence), trafficking, (and) have personal medical issues," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter on Friday, explaining her decision to shut the media out of her Corona town hall. "This town hall was designed for residents to feel safe discussing sensitive issues in a threatening political time."

She added in a separate tweet that the town hall was designed to "protect" and "invite" vulnerable populations to public discourse and dismissed the criticism as a "non-story."

Ocasio-Cortez also said her campaign had indicated that the town hall would be closed to the news media, adding that future events will be open to the press.

Since her primary upset earlier this summer, Ocasio-Cortez has given numerous interviews and has become a fixture on cable news and in the pages of national publications.

She received flak on social media from journalists who contended that she should have held a private event if they wanted to exclude the press.

"(Ocasio-Cortez) is in for a rough time on Capitol Hill -- where reporters roam freely at all hours of the day and night -- if this is her attitude toward the press," Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim tweeted.

Campaign spokesman Corbin Trent insisted to CNN that it was "an outlier" to keep the press out of the two events and it was only done out of respect for the constituents.

"We wanted to make sure the people in the room felt comfortable to voice their opinions, to say what they thought," Trent told CNN in a phone interview, adding that the presence of cameras can make people "less comfortable."

He noted that the events were live-streamed and that Ocasio-Cortez has done "a lot of interviews."

When asked by CNN if the campaign will continue to bar the media from such functions, Trent replied, "No. Probably not."

Ocasio-Cortez unseated long-serving Democratic congressman Joe Crowley in New York's June primary and has become a leading figure on the progressive left. She's up against Republican candidate Anthony Pappas, who did not have a challenger in his party's primary, for New York's 14th Congressional District in November.

CNN's Tom Kludt contributed to this report.
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