The White House said Monday it has restored CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass, but warned him — and the rest of the press corps — that his disruptive antics will not be tolerated in the future.
In a statement to the reporters covering the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said reporters called upon at press conferences will be limited to a single question unless explicitly given permission for more, and they must yield the microphone when prodded.
Both of those are aimed directly at Mr. Acosta, who the White House has accused of using his perch at CNN for “grandstanding” at the expense of President Trump and other reporters.
“We have created these rules with a degree of regret,” Mrs. Sanders said, pointing to years of press conferences that went off without the behavior Mr. Acosta displayed earlier this month when he verbally sparred with Mr. Trump and then pushed aside the arm of a press intern who came to collect the microphone.
“We would have greatly preferred to continue hosting White House press conferences in reliance on a set of understood professional norms, and we believe the overwhelming majority of journalists covering the White House share that preference. But, given the position taken by CNN, we now feel obligated to replace previously shared practices with explicit rules,” she said.
That was a reference to the lawsuit CNN filed, and myriad other news organizations joined, asserting the White House was violating First Amendment press freedoms and Mr. Acosta’s Fifth Amendment due process rights by stripping him of his credentials to access the White House grounds after the offending press conference.
The decision to restore Mr. Acosta’s pass is a reversal from last week, when the White House had sent a letter signaling it had made a preliminary decision to revoke it.
The back-and-forth comes just days after a federal judge ruled the White House had acted hastily in revoking his press pass the first time.
The judge said the White House didn’t even give Mr. Acosta a process to be able to challenge the revocation.
Mr. Acosta and CNN had said the White House had little choice but to restore the credentials after that, and said the threat to re-revoke the credentials was illegal, since there were no rules in place at the time to prohibit Mr. Acosta’s behavior.
“Put simple, the White House’s illegal reaction after the November 7 press conference cannot be made legal now by applying an after-the-fact concocted process,” wrote CNN’s lawyer, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr.
He suggested Americans want to see a collaborative process where CNN helps the White House write rules to govern future press conferences, rather than a continued push to go after Mr. Acosta’s pass.
The White House statement Monday signals that officials decided CNN’s input was not needed.
Mrs. Sanders did hint that more rules could come in the future, though she said they’re hoping the press polices itself.
“The White House’s interaction with the press is, and generally should be, subject to a natural give-and-take,” she said. “President Trump believes strongly in the First Amendment, and a free press and is the most accessible president in modern history. It would be a great loss for all if, instead of relying on the professionalism of White House journalists, we were compelled to devise a lengthy and detailed code of conduct for White House events.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association, which acts as liaison between reporters and the White House, praised the decision on Mr. Acosta’s pass, but suggested resistance to the new press conference rules.
“For as long as there have been White House press conferences, White House reporters have asked follow-up questions,” said Olivier Knox, the association’s president. “We fully expect this tradition will continue.”
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