CNN’s Jim Acosta White House Press Pass Dilemma Continues

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On Nov. 7, 2018, after the midterm elections news conference, the Trump administration suspended Jim Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for CNN, because of his behavior. His behavior was described to be “too aggressive” and “absolutely unacceptable” by the press secretary Sarah Sanders.

The pass was originally revoked because he refused to return the microphone that all reporters use to ask questions. USA Today mentions that he continued to address President Trump about “the caravan of Central Americans moving through Mexico toward the U.S border.”

After Trump answered the initial question, Jim Acosta held on to the microphone in an attempt to ask another question and Trump called him “rude” and a “terrible person”. Sarah Huckabee Sanders also accused him of inappropriately touching one of the White House interns who tried to take the microphone back. However, the government’s legal brief later abandoned the physical claim altogether.

CNN’s’ lawsuit against Trump, Huckabee Sanders, and other officials was based on the administration violating the First Amendment rights to have the ability to report on the presidency. The lawsuit mentions that the suspension is an attempt to “censor the press and exclude reporters…who challenge and dispute the presidents point of view.” Their lawyers mention that suspension stemmed from an accumulation of years of hostility between the President and the news organization.

The government stands on the issue of maintaining a specific decorum during White House press conferences. The behavior of Acosta was described as disruptive because he wanted to ask a follow-up question. The Trump Administration has a goal to “ensure decorum, to prevent a reporter from asking three or four questions then refusing to sit down.”

There have been several other news organizations that agree with a lawsuit because they have recognized that this may cause the White House to ban other reporters in the future. NBC News highlights how their outlet as well as The Associated Press, Fox News, The New York Times and The Washington Post support CNN. In a joint statement, they discuss how important it is for reporters in the White House to be given the freedom to ask questions and that “independent journalist have access to the president and his activities and that journalist are not barred for arbitrary reasons.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), who represents reporters from different outlets, disagrees with the government’s stance and describes it as “wrong” and “dangerous”. The WHCA lawyer wrote the following in a brief:

Simply stated, if the President were to have the absolute discretion to strip a correspondent of a hard pass, the chilling effect would be severe and the First Amendment protections afforded journalist to gather and report news on the activities on the President would be largely eviscerated.

Judge Timothy Kelly, who was appointed by Trump a year ago, did not rule in favor of the underlying case but instead, he granted CNN’s request and granted a temporary reinstatement of the press pass. Judge Kelly explains that the White House denied him due process by suspending the pass without notice. He believed that CNN deserved the chance to more formally respond to the reason behind the suspension.

In light of the ruling, the Trump Administration has decided to come up with a code of conduct for reporters. The goal is to create rules and regulations for conduct during press conferences. Huckabee Sanders told Fox News that a letter was sent to CNN to describe where their reporter went wrong at the press conference. Business Insider quotes Brain Stelter of CNN explaining that the letter is “to establish a paper trail that will empower the administration to boot Acosta again at the end of the month.”

The White House is currently under scrutiny about the initial reason behind revoking the press pass. The Washington Post describes a sped-up video that Huckabee Sanders tweeted of the reporter being physical during the press conference. and mentions how “the alleged assault simply isn’t there, and the fact that the White House needed to use sped-up video to bolster its point shows how shaky the foundations of the decision and its initial justifications were.”

The news statement now mentions how he just refused to surrender the microphone. In the future, Acosta will have to tread lightly in reference to him asking questions during conferences. USA Today mentions how other networks have described him as being “unprofessional repeatedly during briefings and his ‘disruptive behavior’ and ‘grandstanding’ hindered other reports from doing their jobs.” If reports like continuing to emerge, CNN will have a hard time getting his pass reinstated permanently and having a successful lawsuit overall.

With the support of the First Amendment, NBC News highlights how the government said that “presidents can regulate access to the White House as they do to select which journalist get interviews or which reporters they call on at a news conference.” This is a risk for Acosta not being called on again or not being granted entrance into the White House at all.

The code of conduct that will be created may assist with keeping professional order at press conferences so every reporter who is a looked, gets a fair chance. This code may also allow the White House to stop answering unwanted questions overall, which may defeat the purpose of the press conference — to ask the hard questions directly.

This was a temporary win for one reporter but a caution to all journalist and reporters. Passion, the drive to get the hard questions answering and the determination to do so publicly can have a positive or negative effect on the job. Be careful and respectful within the eagerness to discover the story and things will work out.

Written by Monet’ Goode
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware

USA Today: CNN reporter Jim Acosta heads ‘back to work’ after judge orders White House to restore his press credential
CNN Business: Judge orders White House to return Jim Acosta’s press pass
NBC News: Trump administration says it has right to bar CNN reporter
The Washington Post: The White House is changing its tune on why it yanked Jim Acosta’s press pass
Business Insider: Trump explains how he’ll handle Jim Acosta now that Acosta’s press pass is back

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