White House Violated the Constitution with Acosta’s Credentials

White House Violated the Constitution with Acosta’s Credentials November 10, 2018

Here’s a precedent I did not know about. It’s about 40 years old, but a journalist named Robert Sherrill, who worked for The Nation, challenged the White House for refusing him a credential and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that they had violated the First Amendment by denying him access without due process.

The D.C. circuit court ruled in Sherrill’s favor in 1977. While the court did not demand that the Secret Service issue him a press credential, it did set forth a series of new, transparent steps to ensure that no reporter’s First Amendment rights were violated.

“Once the government creates the kind of forum that it has created, like the White House briefing room, it can’t selectively include or exclude people on the basis of ideology or viewpoint,” said Ben Wizner, the director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.

The new steps enunciated in the Sherrill decision to ensure that reporters’ First Amendment rights are not violated include the requirement to give the reporter notice and the right to rebut a formal written decision, which must accompany any revocation. “We further conclude that notice, opportunity to rebut, and a written decision are required because the denial of a pass potentially infringes upon First Amendment guarantees,” the court’s ruling states. “Such impairment of this interest cannot be permitted to occur in the absence of adequate procedural due process.”

“If the Secret Service makes this kind of determination that they’re going to no longer let someone have access, or limit access from the start, there should be a really good reason for that,” Michele Kimball, a media-law professor at George Washington University, said. “And if you are denied that access, there should be some sort of procedural due process for you, [so] that you can find out what happened. And it’s sort of that check to make sure that, again, it’s being handled evenhandedly.”

I hope Acosta, CNN and the White House Correspondents Association file a lawsuit immediately. This is about far more than just Jim Acosta, especially with Trump today threatening to take credentials from other journalists as well. Trump has been at war with the very idea of a free press from the start, threatening to yank the licenses of TV stations that report things he doesn’t like, demanding that the defamation laws be loosened up so he can sue journalists and intimidate them into shutting up. It’s time for journalists to take a stand, both in court and in the White House briefing room.

Until this is reversed, every single White House correspondent should agree among themselves to ask only questions about this situation. They should repeat Acosta’s question and they should ask other questions too. Like these:

“You say that you had to pull Jim Acosta’s credentials because you will not tolerate a man putting his hands on a woman. Yet the president himself is on tape bragging about grabbing women by the pussy. Do you actually expect anyone to believe this ridiculous excuse?”

“You say that you had to pull Jim Acosta’s credentials because you will not tolerate a man putting his hands on a woman. Yet when Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, grabbed a reporter by the arm and yanked her away, the president defended him and continues to defend him and seek advice for him. Isn’t that highly hypocritical?”

“You say that you had to pull Jim Acosta’s credentials because you will not tolerate a man putting his hands on a woman. Yet the president defended his own aide, Rob Porter, who beat both of his ex-wives and, according to reports, is still seeking a way to get him back into the White House. Wouldn’t it be more honest to say that you will gladly tolerate men who grab and beat women if they’re on your side, but if you consider them an enemy, you’ll use doctored video to make them look bad so you have a dishonest pretext to get rid of them?”

“Why does the president continually use Josef Stalin’s phrase “enemy of the people” to describe the press? Is he not aware that Stalin and other brutal dictators throughout the 20th century used that rhetoric as an excuse to imprison, torture and kill journalists? Or is he just okay with invoking such a barbaric past in order to demonize his enemies?”

That’s a good start.

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