Accuracy in Media

In what Brian Stelter called a “historic moment for press freedom,” CNN has sued Donald Trump and five others demanding they return Jim Acosta’s press pass so he can rejoin the White House press corps.

Both CNN and Acosta are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which claims the First and Fifth Amendment rights of both were violated by the ban. The suit lists six defendants – Trump, chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine, Secret Service director Randolph Alles and the Secret Service officer who took Acosta’s hard pass that evening.

Acosta lost his hard pass after he pushed away the arm of a White House intern who was attempting to take a microphone from him at a contentious White House press conference.

CNN’s story on the lawsuit, written by Stelter, said: “Sanders defended the unprecedented step by claiming that he had behaved inappropriately CNN and numerous journalism advocacy groups rejected that assertion and said his pass should be reinstated,” wrote Stelter in “CNN sues President Trump and top White House aides for barring Jim Acosta.”

CNN is demanding not only that Acosta be reinstated immediately but that safeguards be put in place to keep the White House from taking his credentials again in the future.

The network moved to make this a problem for all of media. “CNN also asserted that other news organizations could have been targeted by the Trump administration this way, and could be in the future,” Stelter wrote.

“’While the suit is specific to CNN and Costa, this could have happened to anyone,’ the network said. ‘If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials.’”

CNN pointed out Trump had promised during his campaign he would not kick reporters out of the White House, but since moving in, “he has mused privately about taking away credentials.”

Trump’s threats “fly in the face of decades of tradition and precedent,” CNN wrote.

Republican and Democratic administrations alike have had a permissive approach toward press passes, erring on the side of greater access, even for obscure, partisan or fringe outlets.”

The Washington Post responded with “CNN sues White House to regain access for reporter Jim Acosta” by media reporter Paul Farhi, which predicted CNN will win its suit “unless the White House can show that Acosta is violent and disruptive.”

But it then mischaracterized the issue at hand. “Disputes have occasionally flared over which members of the press corps are qualified to receive a ‘hard pass,’” Farhi wrote. “But Trump’s action appears to be unprecedented; there’s no record of a president revoking such a pass from a reporter because he didn’t like the questions the reporter asked.”

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, brought the suit that ruled Trump cannot block Twitter followers who are abusive to him.

“The government cannot exclude reporters from [the White House] because of their views,” Jaffer told Farhi. “Viewpoint is not a criterion that establishes a media organization’s right to be at a news briefing.”

Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica, said the press should consider a mass walkout if Trump doesn’t relent.

“This isn’t principally a legal question,” Tofel told Farhi. “It’s a question of editorial independence.”

But the White House maintains Acosta lost his credentials for making contact with the White House intern.

“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration,” Sanders said at the time. “We will, however, never tolerate a reporter 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.”

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