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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 13, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: CNN sues Trump administration

CNN filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and several of his aides Nov. 13, seeking the immediate restoration of the press credentials of White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

The lawsuit is a response the suspension of Acosta’s press pass Nov. 7. After a contentious press conference in which Acosta asked Trump multiple questions and refused to give up the microphone until he answered, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the White House suspended Acosta’s “hard pass,” which gives him access to the White House grounds. Sanders did not give a date for when it would be restored, only stating that the pass was suspended “until further notice.”

Sanders’ initial rationale for Acosta’s suspension was that he placed hands on an intern who attempted to take the microphone from him. However, in reality — according to CNN — Acosta had simply not let go of the microphone until asking a follow-up question and then released it. Sanders released a video of the exchange on Twitter, which was sped up to make it seem like Acosta was more aggressive.

CNN said in a statement that the suspension violates both Acosta’s and the news agency’s First and Fifth Amendment rights.

“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,” CNN said. “We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of the process.”

In response to the lawsuit, Sanders said the White House will defend its case and claimed CNN was only seeking media attention. Sanders also said Acosta is not the only CNN reporter who has access to the White House grounds and that he is not any more or less deserving than any other hard pass holders or news outlets.

“This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” Sanders said.

The American Civil Liberties Union voiced its support for CNN, condemning the Trump administration for not permitting journalists their constitutional rights.

“It is un-American and unlawful for the president to expel a reporter from the White House briefing room for doing his job,” ACLU said. “It shouldn’t take a lawsuit from CNN to remind the president of the First Amendment.”

This is not the first time the Trump administration has clashed with reporters. On Nov. 9, Trump threatened to retaliate against reporters who did not treat the administration or the White House with respect. Throughout his presidency, and even while campaigning, Trump has called reporters the enemy of the people.

After filing the lawsuit, CNN acknowledged that it is fighting for the credentials of a CNN reporter but said the case is critical the journalism in the U.S. as a whole.

“If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous, chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials,” CNN said.

Meredith Burke can be reached at mburke@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meredithsburke