CNN is taking legal action against the White House after the Trump administration suspended the “hard pass” press credentials of the network’s correspondent Jim Acosta.
“CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration this morning in DC District Court,” a statement from the news outlet released on Tuesday reads. “It demands the return of the White House credentials of CNN’s Chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process. We have asked this court for na immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process. While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone. If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials.”
According to the legal documents, shared on CNN’s press website, the lawsuit was filed against President Trump, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications William Shine, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Director of the United States Secret Service Randolph Alles (who took Acosta’s pass), and an unnamed Secret Service agent.
Sanders announced Acosta’s White House media pass would be revoked after a contentious face-off during a press conference on Nov. 7. In what amounted to a shouting match, a female intern attempted to grab the mic away from Acosta. Sanders shared doctored video footage of the incident on social media and accused Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”
“This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history,” she tweeted — even though Trump has previously barred multiple members of the press from various events.
Some, like Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert, called on Sanders to be fired, as the video, which appeared to be the same one shared by an Infowars personality, made the interaction seem more violent.
“We have been advised that CNN has filed a complaint challenging the suspension of Jim Acosta’s hard pass. This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” a new statement from the press secretary reads in response to CNN’s complaint.
While Sanders’ earlier tweets focused on Acosta “placing his hands” on the intern, her new remarks argue the pass was revoked for Acosta refusing to give up the mic to other reporters.
“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,” she says. “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.”
Olivier Knox, head of the White House Correspondents’ Association, released a statement in solidarity with CNN. “Revoking access to the White House complex amounted to disproportionate reaction to the events of last Wednesday,” he said. “We continue to urge the administration to reverse course and full reinstate CNN’s correspondent. The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him.”