Fox News backs CNN in lawsuit against Trump Administration

"Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized," Fox News' president said in a statement.

(Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
  • On Tuesday, CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for allegedly violating the First and Fifth Amendments when it revoked Jim Acosta's press badge.
  • Opinions on Acosta may vary among media professionals, though the general consensus seems to be that administrations shouldn't bar journalists from the White House based on the content of their reporting.
  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who had tweeted a doctored video of the heated exchange between Acosta and President Donald Trump, described CNN's lawsuit as "more grandstanding."

Fox News voiced support on Wednesday for CNN's effort to restore the press pass of reporter Jim Acosta after it was revoked by the White House.

The move comes one day after CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration alleging it violated the First and Fifth Amendments by stripping Acosta of the so-called "hard pass" that allows him entry to the White House. That revocation occurred on November 8 just hours after Acosta irritated the president with an aggressive line of questioning during a press conference at the White House. Acosta also refused to relinquish a microphone during the heated exchange when a White House intern attempted to take it from him.

"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. "We intend to file an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court. Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized. 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."

Amicus briefs are legal documents filed by non-litigants who have a strong interest in the subject matter of a case.

Opinions vary on whether Acosta was disrespectful or simply annoying during his questioning of the president. However, journalists, media organizations and free speech groups on both sides of the spectrum have largely decried the administration's effort to boot a journalist from the White House for what seem to be content-based reasons.

A presidential administration cannot, after all, arbitrarily revoke the hard pass of a journalist "for less than compelling reasons," according to a 1977 decision from a D.C. Circuit Court in Sherrill v. Knight.

"The President of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him," said Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, of which Fox News is part.

It seems likely CNN will prevail in its efforts to restore Acosta's hard pass. On Tuesday, Judge Andrew Napolitano, the top legal analyst at Fox News, said:

"The only grounds for revoking the pass are, is the person a danger to the physical security to the president or his family? Obviously -- Acosta may have been an irritant to the president -- but he was hardly a danger to him," Napolitano said on Fox Business on Tuesday morning. "So I think CNN's got a very good case. I think this will be resolved quickly. I don't expect a jury trial. I think it will either be settled or CNN will prevail on motion."

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders downplayed CNN's lawsuit, calling it "more grandstanding" from the network.

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

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