FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?

On the evening of November 7, administration officials suspended CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s “hard pass.” A hard pass allows its holder “access to areas designated for journalists in the West Wing, on Air Force One, and in other secured areas during presidential trips, which are routinely covered by the White House press corps.”

The suspension followed a combative press conference during which US president Donald Trump repeatedly slammed reporters, referring to Acosta as “an enemy of the people,” and during which Acosta  refused to hand a White House mic back to the intern who came to collect it when his haranguing — er, questioning — time ran out and either (depending on who you ask) accidentally brushed, or intentionally struck, the intern.

On November 13, CNN sued Trump and several other White House officials, accusing them of violating Acosta’s First Amendment (freedom of the press) and Fifth Amendment (due process) rights.

Insofar as the White House has specific and supposedly objective standards for granting hard passes to reporters, Acosta might indeed have a due process claim if yanking his pass didn’t conform to those standards. The First Amendment claim, on the other hand, seems pretty sketchy.

The First Amendment protects not only a free press but freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of peaceable assembly to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Does this mean that anyone who wants to report, speak, pray or just have a non-violent political get-together must be allowed to do so at the White House, on demand?

Well, maybe so. In Thomas Jefferson’s time, Americans could stroll the White House grounds at will and even visit with the president and first lady at lunchtime or after each day. Of course, things have changed since then, but I have no problem with the principle of the thing. The White House supposedly belongs to “the public.” Why shouldn’t we drop in any time we please?

That, however, is not what CNN contends.  They’re not upset that you and I can’t plop ourselves down in White House press room chairs and start firing off questions at the president any time the spirit moves. Their lawsuit argues, rather, that because CNN is a popular cable channel and its White House correspondent is very special and important, Jim Acosta is entitled to a chair, a desk, and face time with Donald Trump.

I suspect a lawsuit on similar supposed First Amendment claims from, say,  Caitlin Johnstone, Alex Jones, Chris Hedges, or the “White House Correspondent” of a small-town Kentucky newspaper  would get laughed right out of court (and out of the “mainstream press”), even if they all agreed to hand the microphones back over when their time ran out.

 

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail