Should everyone have the right to walk into the White House and ask the president stupid questions?
Since it was filed earlier this week the lawsuit brought by America’s foremost purveyor of fake news, cable TV network CNN, against the Trump administration claiming the revocation of White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s “hard pass” media credential somehow runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution has largely been cheered on by journalists but ridiculed by conservatives and lawyers.
Acosta’s hard pass was yanked after a contentious Nov. 7 press conference at the White House. After interacting with President Trump – Acosta said he wanted to “challenge” him on calling the Central American caravans an “invasion” – the president called upon another reporter to speak. Acosta belligerently refused to yield the microphone to a White House staffer and pushed her arm away as she reached for the device, all of which was captured on video.
Critics of President Trump say he has no right to decide which reporters cover him, which is, of course, beside the point. By taking away a hard pass Trump is not preventing Acosta from covering him – merely making it more difficult for him to gain access to a government building he otherwise has no legal right to enter. Even if he were barred from the White House grounds, Acosta would still be free to report on the Trump administration to his heart’s content.
As George W. Bush’s White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer explained in a Nov. 13 tweet:
Acosta has access to the White House, the same every other opinion writer or op-ed writer has. He remains a member of the press corps and he can apply for a daily WH press pass. The only thing he lost is a hard pass which clears him daily [without] need for a day pass.
The Department of Justice filed a 28-page brief in support of the president’s position, saying that “no journalist has a First Amendment right to enter the White House.”
It continued: “The president is generally free to open the White House doors to political allies, in the hopes of furthering a particular agenda, and he is equally free to invite in only political foes, in the hopes of convincing them of his position. The First Amendment simply does not regulate these decisions.”
The document states “the lack of a hard pass does not prevent Mr. Acosta — much less CNN— from reporting on the White House.”
“That revocation was premised on stated reasons that are viewpoint- and content-neutral and are evident from the video of the November 7 press conference,” the document said.
In other words, this vexatious lawsuit is much ado about nothing. It is a publicity stunt by the most dishonest of the cable TV news networks and nothing more.
The lawsuit was filed by Ted Boutrous and Trump-hating Republican lawyer Ted Olson, of the law firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. Olson was solicitor general in President George W. Bush’s administration. (The legal complaint may be viewed here.)
Although the media howled on those rare occasions when reporters barked questions at then-President Obama at White House pressers without being called upon, now some journalists are circling the wagons to protect the boorish Acosta.
Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said his group “strongly supports CNN’s goal of seeing their correspondent regain a U.S. Secret Service security credential that the White House should not have taken away in the first place.”
Surprisingly, Fox News supports CNN’s lawsuit and said it would file a friend-of-the-court brief in the legal proceeding.
“FOX News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential,” Fox News President Jay Wallace said in a statement. “While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”
One America News Network (OAN) took the opposite tack and criticized Fox News.
CEO Robert Herring tweeted:
We are going to file in the CNN vs White House court an Amicus Brief in favor of the White House. Acosta’s actions are stopping our people from getting their questions answered, so that we can give our audience the real news direct from our President.
Can’t believe Fox is on the other side, but they have direct communication to the President. We are lucky if we get a five minute interview once a quarter.
CNN asserts the puzzling claim that the banishment of Acosta violates the constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and due process, implying Acosta has a right to attend White House events no matter how outrageous, disruptive, or inappropriate his behavior.
CNN is asking a U.S. District Court judge in the District of Columbia for an injunction reinstating Acosta’s easy access to the executive mansion and its environs. The courts are ill-equipped to deal with such a novel legal request. After all, no one has a constitutional right to attend a White House press conference or to be called upon by the president at one. The president isn’t actually required to hold press conferences or to answer questions at all, which makes CNN’s claims all the more dubious.
Named in the lawsuit as defendants are President Trump, chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Sanders, deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine, the director of the U.S. Secret Service, and the uniformed officer who confiscated Acosta’s credentials.
Now the Left is trying to recast Acosta, an egomaniacal, attention-hogging brat widely disliked in Washington media circles, as a free speech martyr.
In Vanity Fair, Joe Pompeo hailed Acosta for bringing “a performative brio to his role” and for “his truth-to-power moments.” The “fantastic television” Acosta has provided has “made him a journalistic folk hero in some quarters of the reality-based community…”
Without mentioning Acosta’s gross breach of White House press conference protocol, Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, tweeted:
Trump @PressSec confirms that White House has suspended the hard pass of a reporter because it doesn’t like the way he does his job. This is something I’ve never seen since I started covering the White House in 1996. Other presidents did not fear tough questioning.
Sanders was dismissive of the lawsuit, describing it as “just more grandstanding from CNN.”
CNN, who has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders, and Mr. Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment. After Mr. Acosta asked the President two questions—each of which the President answered—he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions. This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters.’
The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional. The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor. If there is no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business.
It needs to pointed out that Trump is right about the well-organized caravans of Central American migrants marching toward the southern U.S. border when he calls them an “invasion.”
This week some of the caravan participants reached the U.S.-Mexico border. News reports showed illegal aliens scaling a seaside border wall en masse around San Ysidro, Calif., and penetrating the U.S. elsewhere.
This is what Americans ordinary call an “invasion,” even if dishonest journalists like Acosta refuse to call it that.
At the Nov. 7 presser, Acosta needled Trump on this point.
“As you know, Mr. President, the caravan was not an invasion. It’s a group of migrants moving up from Central America towards the border with the U.S.,” Acosta.
Trump said, he considered it “an invasion,” adding that, “you and I have a difference of opinion.”
Acosta continued pressing, asking Trump if he “demonized immigrants in this election.” Trump rejected the claim and said, “I want them to come into the country, but they have to come in legally. You know, they have to come in, Jim, through a process. I want it to be a process.”
The back-and-forth continued a few moments after which Trump called on another questioner from the media.
As noted above, Acosta, who seems to think he can monopolize White House press conferences with question after question when others are waiting in line, refused to hand over the microphone to the intern.
“I think you should — honestly, I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN … and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.”