WASHINGTON – The White House said on Tuesday that it will mount a “vigorous” defense against the lawsuit filed by CNN accusing the administration of violating freedom of the press by suspending the press credentials of one of its reporters after a press conference confrontation with President Donald Trump.
“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, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared in a statement.
The cable news service on Tuesday filed its suit in a District of Columbia court against the president and five members of his staff over the decision to permanently ban CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta from the presidential residence.
In its statement, the administration claimed that 50 other CNN reporters are accredited to cover White House news and that Acosta is not special in any way, suggesting that he can easily be replaced.
“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 in a statement.
The lawsuit, filed in DC District Court, asks for a restraining order requiring the return of Acosta’s White House press pass.
When the White House suspended Acosta’s pass last week, it said it did so because he had placed his hands on a female intern who was trying to take the microphone from him after Trump indicated he was no longer taking his questions. Video of the altercation shows only incidental contact.
CNN has said this fight was not about the intern but rather about the president’s contempt for Acosta and CNN.
“While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone. 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.
The White House answered back, saying that the administration “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,” the White House added.
After the press conference, a member of the Secret Service approached Acosta and demanded that he turn in his press pass, according to a video recording of the incident posted by the journalist on Twitter.