CNN on Tuesday filed suit against top White House officials and the Secret Service for the revocation of chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s hard pass to the White House following last Wednesday’s testy post-election news conference with President Trump. The suit seeks the immediate restoration of the pass, based on First Amendment and due-process considerations.
Perhaps more newsworthy than the suit itself is the response from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. It must be torn apart. Here it is, annotated:
We have been advised that CNN has filed a complaint challenging the suspension of Jim Acosta’s hard pass. This is just more grandstanding from CNN (1), and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit.
CNN, who has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders (2), and Mr. Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment. (3) 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 (4), so that other reporters might ask their questions. This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters. (5)
The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional. The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor. If there is no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business. (6)
(1) “Grandstanding”: Here’s some real grandstanding.
(2) “Who has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders”: Time to amend the original CNN complaint in this case. With this little flourish, the White House appears to be suggesting that, hey, CNN doesn’t need its chief White House correspondent — it can get along just fine with all those other pass-holders. Never has the White House voluntarily summed up its anti-mediaism in so few words.
(3) “No more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment”: A representative of the guy who has riffed about weakening libel protections and pulling the broadcast license of a unhelpful news outlet (something he can’t do) is posturing as an arbiter of First Amendment protections.
(4) “He physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern”: True. Acosta should have surrendered the microphone.
(5) “This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters.”: In this sentence and its neighbors, Sanders appears terribly concerned about the ability of reporters to ask questions. Perhaps, then, she should bring back the daily White House press briefing.
(6) An omission: Sanders appears to have bailed on a previous statement accusing Acosta of “placing his hands” on an intern at last week’s press conference who was attempting to retrieve a microphone. As the New York Times reported, Sanders relied on misleading video to lodge the allegation.
There’s a reason why lawyers commonly insist that defendants in civil suits respond with short and boring statements, such as, We will vigorously fight this litigation. CNN surely thanks the administration for this three-paragraph gift package.