White House Responds to CNN Lawsuit Over Jim Acosta Ban

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
November 13, 2018Politics

The White House has responded to a lawsuit CNN filed against President Donald Trump and five other individuals working at the White House over the suspension of reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass.

Acosta refused to give up a microphone after a confrontational exchange with Trump over his definition of the word “invasion,” claiming Trump “demonized immigrants” by drawing attention to the thousands of Central Americans who are moving through Mexico in the hopes of illegally entering the United States.

After the sequence, during which Trump responded four times to Acosta, the CNN correspondent refused to give up a microphone, violating protocol. All other members of the press at the Nov. 7 press conference asked one question, and sometimes a follow-up.

When a female White House intern came over and attempted to take the mic to pass it on to another reporter, Acosta pushed back against her arm. CNN later falsely claimed that Acosta did not touch the intern, despite ample video evidence that he did, repeating that claim in the lawsuit.

Eventually, he relinquished the microphone. The full exchange is in the video at the top of the page.

Later that day, when Acosta returned to the White House, a member of the Secret Service said he’d been instructed to take Acosta’s hard press pass, which enables reporters to access press conferences and other events in the building. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Acosta’s pass was suspended until further notice and Trump later called Acosta “A very unprofessional man.”

CNN's Jim Acosta speaking over President Donald Trump
A White House staff member steps in to try to take the microphone away from CNN’s Jim Acosta as he questions U.S. President Donald Trump during a news conference at the White House in Washington, on Nov. 7, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)


The White House responded on Nov. 13, after the suit was filed, with Sanders saying: “This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit.”

She noted that CNN has dozens of additional hard pass holders and that Acosta has behaved inappropriately in the past.

“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.”

CNN filed the lawsuit (pdf) in a district court in Washington.

The network alleged that the revocation of the press pass violated the network’s and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and Fifth Amendment rights of due process.

Trump and Acosta
President Donald Trump answers CNN reporter Jim Acosta during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on Nov. 7, 2018. (Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

“We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process. 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,” the network said in a statement.

The suit cites several court opinions that CNN believes applies to the case, including a 1977 D.C. Circuit decision that ordered the Secret Service to formulate standards by which applications from reporters who wish to cover the White House are judged.

Along with Trump, the suit names White House officials John Kelly, William Shine, Sarah Sanders, Randolph Alles, and “John Doe,” or the Secret Service member who took the pass away.

The lawsuit repeats the false claim that Acosta didn’t touch the White House intern, dwelling on other reporters who also asserted the false claim. Video records of the press conference clearly show Acosta using his right hand to chop down on the intern’s arm when she attempted to grab the mic from him.

CNN says that the White House didn’t take action because of the inappropriate contact, but because it didn’t like Acosta challenging Trump.

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