Guardian reporter: “Frankly, I don’t think that anyone has agreed to the rules because there’s no reason for the White House to dictate the terms about how reporters do their jobs”
After the White House agreed to give CNN’s Jim Acosta his press “hard pass” back, the White House also rolled out new rules governing the conduct of press conferences.
Nothing in the court decision granting Acosta a TRO addressed the extent to which the White House could promulgate rules, because the court was addressing a situation in which there were not written rules or procedure. It was that lack of process that formed the sole basis for the court’s decision.
The court case came after Jim Acosta refused to yield the floor or the microphone, and physically prevented a White House intern from retrieving the microphone:
The court expressly declined to rule, at that stage of case, whether the press had a First Amendment right to attend press briefings, and the court seemed to suggest otherwise. The transcript (pdf.) of the decision on the TRO suggests that the White House could institute some sort of process to govern the conduct of press conferences:
So because the plaintiffs have shown a likelihood that the government has violated Mr. Acosta’s Fifth Amendment rights under Sherrill, because the type of injury he has suffered is irreparable and because the public interest in the balance of equities favor granting a temporary restraining order, I will grant the application for a — for the temporary restraining order here. I will order the defendants immediately restore Mr. Acosta’s hard pass until further order of the Court or the restraining order expires. And if, at some point after restoring the hard pass, the Government would like to move to vacate the restraining order on the grounds that it has fulfilled its due process obligations, then it may, of course, do so and I will promptly address that and then the remaining bases for the TRO.
I want to emphasize the very limited nature of today’s ruling. In resolving this TRO, I haven’t — because I’ve found that it must be granted on — as to the due process claim, I haven’t had to reach the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claim at all in which they alleged that the government engaged in viewpoint or content discrimination. So I want to make very clear a couple of things. I have not determined that the First Amendment was violated here; I have not determined what legal standard would apply to the First Amendment claim here; I have not determined the specific nature of the First Amendment interest that Sherrill recognizes — or that Sherrill at least doesn’t describe but recognizes, yes; and I haven’t determined what portions of Sherrill, if any, would bind me on those questions.
Here are the new rules. They limit the practice of journalists continuing to ask/shout questions and refusing to yield the floor. Since this is the most common problem at press conferences, it should serve as a warning to people like Acosta who make a name for themselves by trying to take control of the floor.
(1) A journalist called upon to ask a question will ask a single question and then will yield the floor to other journalists;
(2) At the discretion of the President or other White House official taking questions, a follow-up question or questions may be permitted; and where a follow up has been allowed and asked, the questioner will yield the floor;
(3) ‘Yielding the floor’ includes, when applicable, physically surrendering the microphone to White House staff for use by the next questioner;
(4) Failure to abide by any of these rules (1)-(3) may result in suspension or revocation of the journalist’s hard pass.
Reporters do not like the new rules. At all.
And some of them are talking tough, like Guardian reporter Sabrina Saddiqui appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources. The Hill reports:
A political reporter for The Guardian said Sunday she doesn’t believe White House reporters have agreed to guidelines set out by the White House for future press conferences following its controversial decision to revoke CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s credentials.
“I don’t think that anyone has agreed to the rules because there’s no reason for the White House to dictate the terms about how reporters do their jobs,” Sabrina Siddiqui said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”
The White House last week dropped its bid to rescind Acosta’s hard pass following a contentious press conference with the president. Instead, it said it would enforce rules at future press events that limit the number of follow up questions a reporter can ask if they are recognized by President Trump or the communications staff.
“Follow-ups are commonplace, and in fact they serve a very critical importance when you think about the fact that the president might for example try and avoid answering a certain question, or he might answer it in a way that’s misleading. That’s precisely where a good follow up question comes into play,” Siddiqui said.
“So all of this really comes back to the idea that the White House does not want to admit that it got the Jim Acosta situation wrong, and it wants to prolong this feud with the media because they know that’s something the president can use to harden support within his base,” she added.
“Frankly, I don’t think that anyone has agreed to the rules because there’s no reason for the White House to dictate the terms about how reporters do their jobs,” @SabrinaSiddiqui says about the White House announcing rules governing conduct at presidential press conferences. pic.twitter.com/lW41bRhr7h
— Reliable Sources (@ReliableSources) November 25, 2018
This all sounds like tough talk, but will a reporter at the next press conference continue to ask/shout questions and/or refuse to yield the floor and/or refuse to give up the microphone like Acosta did?
If so, and if the White House suspends their access to press conferences, they will have a much more difficult time than Acosta legally. They are on notice.
This is the problem with Acosta’s conduct and court case, as I pointed out Acosta got his press pass back, but his media colleagues will pay the price.
— Legal Insurrection (@LegInsurrection) November 19, 2018
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