As time goes on, the Trump administration continues to conjure new methods to harass the press and undercut its work and the First Amendment freedoms on which it’s based. This week, they revoked CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials allowing him to cover the administration — and some think he has standing to and should sue.
Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin with The Washington Post asserted:
‘President Trump’s conduct… violates every democratic norm one can think of — and what’s more, is illegal. The First Amendment protects the press’s right to report the news and the public’s right to receive that news. The government cannot punish or threaten the press or individuals based on the content of what is reported… Acosta has an… obvious case because he is the one whose rights have been directly violated.’
The administration has claimed that their revocation of Acosta’s reporting rights doesn’t constitute a response to the harsh tone he takes in plenty of his coverage. Instead, they say, they banned him because he crossed a line with a female aide who was trying to take his microphone during a recent press conference after President Donald Trump tried to shut him down. Acosta gently but firmly refused to hand over the mic — and Trump and friends have turned the incident into an assault on the dignity of women perpetrated by a prominent member of the media.
That just didn’t happen, although yes, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared a doctored video meant to depict the situation in the administration’s preferred light. (Drawn from InfoWars, the video speeds up to make it look like Acosta delivered a “karate chop.”)
Others besides Rubin have asserted Acosta should sue in the face of this blatant attack on his rights as a reporter, saying that the attack goes even further and constitutes a libelous undercut to his standing as an American.
CNN analyst Asha Rangappa issued a statement addressed directly to Sanders:
‘[Y]ou are seriously tweeting out an obviously doctored video – from InfoWars no less – to substantiate a false accusation of assault against a journalist??? The standard for libel against a public figure is acting with “actual malice,” and your tweet is Exhibit A.’
.@PressSec you are seriously tweeting out an obviously doctored video – from InfoWars no less – to substantiate a false accusation of assault against a journalist???
The standard for libel against a public figure is acting with “actual malice,” and your tweet is Exhibit A. https://t.co/G6JKx3ZrpN
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) November 8, 2018
They don’t seem too concerned — dragging down their reputation somehow even further in the process.
‘[Sanders] can think whatever she pleases, but she is an employee of the American people and has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution like every other White House employee. She has no right to use her office to lie to the American people, let alone to violate the First Amendment. She has disgraced herself and should be denied the normal presumption of good faith accorded to past White House press secretaries.’
Whether that denial builds up into a lawsuit remains an open question. There already is a pending lawsuit, Rubin noted in her piece, brought against the president by PEN America challenging his incessant harassment of journalists. That suit could be amended to include the specific example of the Trump administration’s baseless punitive harassment of Jim Acosta. It’s one of a number of legal challenges the president continues to face.
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