Administration

Judge orders White House to restore Playboy reporter’s press pass

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A U.S. district judge on Tuesday ordered the White House to restore Playboy correspondent Brian Karem’s press credentials after the administration said last month it was revoking his hard pass.

Judge Rudolph Contreras said in a court order that he was granting Karem’s motion for a preliminary injunction to block the White House’s move. Karem sued the Trump administration after White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced in August that his pass would be suspended through Sept. 14.{mosads}

Contreras wrote in a 24-page opinion that the White House did not provide the required guidance as to what would warrant the suspension of a hard pass outside a press conference setting and that Karem was likely to succeed on the grounds of his due process claim.

“Meanwhile, Karem has shown that even the temporary suspension of his pass inflicts irreparable harm on his First Amendment rights,” the judge wrote.

Contreras acknowledged the White House’s desire to maintain control over decorum but concluded that the ability to confer a hard pass is “no mere triviality.”

Karem celebrated the ruling on Twitter.

“God bless the Constitution, free speech, due process and ⁦@BoutrousTed and his great legal team,” he tweeted, tagging his lawyer.

“We disagree with the decision of the district court to issue an injunction that essentially gives free reign to members of the press to engage in unprofessional, disruptive conduct at the White House,” the White House said in response to the judge’s order. “Mr. Karem’s conduct, including threatening to escalate a verbal confrontation into a physical one to the point that a Secret Service agent intervened, clearly breached well-understood norms of professional conduct. The Press Secretary must have the ability to deter such unacceptable conduct.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association, meanwhile, hailed the decision.

“The WHCA is gratified the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia acted to uphold the due process rights of one of our members,” said the group’s president, Jonathan Karl. “The WHCA will continue to advocate for the rights of our members and against actions by the government that would have a chilling effect on journalism protected by the First Amendment. As we have said repeatedly, we believe everyone should conduct themselves professionally at the White House.”

The White House last month suspended Karem’s credentials for 30 days, citing his behavior following a Rose Garden event in July that was attended by a number of President Trump’s supporters.

As the president walked back into the White House after the July 11 event, Karem shouted and asked whether Trump would stay and take questions from the press.

Former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, sitting in the audience, began engaging with Karem before getting up to approach the reporter.

“You’re not a journalist. You’re a punk,” Gorka said to Karem, who invited the former Trump adviser to “go outside and have a long talk” before engaging with other supporters of the president.

Grisham said she interviewed witnesses and reviewed video of the event. She wrote in a 13-page statement that revoking Karem’s hard pass would be too harsh but that taking no action was an insufficient response to Karem “disrupting” a White House event.

The White House has had an acrimonious relationship with the news media dating back to Trump’s time on the campaign. Regular press briefings have stopped, and Trump and his allies regularly deride specific outlets and reporters he dislikes as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.”

The administration revoked CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s credentials last year after it said he made contact with an intern while trying to hang on to the microphone to ask Trump a question. A federal judge ordered the White House to restore Acosta’s credentials, saying the administration did not follow any established process in its decision.

Updated at 9:24 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Jim Acosta Sebastian Gorka Stephanie Grisham

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