CNN’s White House Lawsuit Wins Support, Including From Trump Favorite Fox News
A dispute over the press credentials of CNN’s chief White House correspondent has escalated into a potentially significant legal showdown over journalists’ rights, as the cable network and the Trump administration prepared for a hearing in federal court on Wednesday.
The episode, involving the CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, attracted interest from prominent First Amendment lawyers after CNN sued the White House to reinstate Mr. Acosta’s press pass, which was revoked last week after a testy exchange between the reporter and President Trump.
On Wednesday, several of the country’s largest news organizations issued a joint statement of support for CNN’s legal action, calling it “imperative that independent journalists have access to the president and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons.” Among the signatories were The Associated Press, Bloomberg, NBC News, The New York Times, Politico and The Washington Post.
Fox News, Mr. Trump’s preferred news network, released its own remarks in favor of CNN’s lawsuit and said it would file an amicus brief in the case.
“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,” Jay Wallace, Fox News’s president, wrote.
A hearing is set for Wednesday afternoon in Federal District Court in Washington. Judge Timothy J. Kelly, who was appointed by Mr. Trump last year, is expected to preside.
The lawsuit is perhaps the most aggressive action yet by a news organization against Mr. Trump since he took office, and it comes as the president has popularized terms like “fake news” and “enemy of the people” to denigrate journalists and dismiss critical coverage.
Although the suit is narrowly concerned with Mr. Acosta’s credentials, press advocacy groups say the outcome could potentially set a precedent over a president’s broader ability to pick and choose which journalists are granted access to the White House.
CNN has argued that Mr. Acosta’s rights were violated when the administration moved quickly to revoke his credential, which allows him easy access to the White House grounds.
The president’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, initially cited a false claim that Mr. Acosta had placed his hands on a White House intern who tried to take away his microphone at the news conference. Ms. Sanders later revised the rationale to cite Mr. Acosta’s behavior, which she deemed disrespectful.
In a response filed on Wednesday, lawyers for the Trump administration referred to an incident in which Mr. Acosta “disrupted the fair and orderly administration of a press conference during an exchange with the President.”
“Plaintiffs have not established that the public interest is uniquely harmed by Mr. Acosta’s absence, in light of the other tenacious reporters still on the White House beat,” the lawyers wrote, noting that dozens of other CNN journalists have retained their credentials.
Mr. Acosta has a reputation as a showboat among some of his press corps colleagues, and he has clashed several times with Mr. Trump since the president took office. Some supporters of Mr. Trump have seized on CNN’s lawsuit as evidence that the network is biased, as the president frequently claims.
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