Appeals court blocks White House from suspending reporter

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a decision blocking the White House from suspending a reporter's press pass after an altercation last year during a White House event.

A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the White House press office failed to provide adequate notice to Brian Karem, Playboy's White House correspondent, that his behavior could result in a suspension.

In a 19-page opinion, the panel said that the decision would not inhibit the White House from banning reporters who engage in especially egregious conduct, rejecting the Trump administration's argument that it would be powerless to hypothetically remove a journalist who "mooned" the president.


"In any event, the White House can rest assured that principles of due process do not limit its authority to maintain order and decorum at White House events by, for example, ordering the immediate removal of rogue, mooning journalists," Judge David Tatel, a Clinton appointee, wrote for the panel.

Karem's attorney, Theodore Boutrous Jr., applauded the decision.

“We are very grateful for the powerful opinion from the D.C. Circuit and are proud to stand with Brian Karem against an administration that regularly demeans and seeks to chill freedom of the press," Boutrous said in an email. "Particularly today where journalists are facing attacks from all directions across the country, this case should let journalists know that the courts will not tolerate these unconstitutional actions.”

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

The court ruled that the White House must establish clear conduct standards for its press corps in order to sanction reporters for questionable behavior.

Karem was suspended last year after getting into a shouting match with Sebastian GorkaSebastian Lukacs GorkaSunday shows preview: Trump, lawmakers weigh in on COVID-19, masks and school reopenings amid virus surge Trump taps Gorka for national security advisory board Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence MORE, a right-wing pundit and former Trump aide, during a social media summit.


The reporter sued the White House and won a preliminary injunction blocking the suspension 18 days into the 30-day ban.

The ruling on Friday prohibits the White House from enforcing the remainder of the suspension while the legal challenge continues.

The White House suffered a similar courtroom loss in 2018 when CNN sued after its correspondent Jim AcostaJames (Jim) AcostaRed flags fly high, but Trump ignores them Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology Twitter permanently suspends account behind doctored video shared by Trump MORE had his press pass suspended after a testy exchange with the president at a press conference. The White House restored Acosta's press badge after he won a preliminary injunction. 

Updated: 12:08 p.m.; 7:52 p.m.