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Conservatives are rightly shocked and dismayed by two recent decisions by Fox News, an allegedly Republican-friendly organization.
First, Fox decided to ban President Trump’s anti-illegal immigration campaign ad after CNN decided it was “racist.” Note that Fox, NBC, and other media outlets didn’t discover this racism on their own. No, they needed that paragon of journalistic integrity, CNN, abetted by a Twitter mob, to find it for them. Hardly a profile in courage or a sign of sound judgment on the part of Fox News.
Now, Fox News has compounded its sins by filing an amicus brief supporting CNN’s recent lawsuit against the White House. The lawsuit aims to force the Trump administration and the Secret Service to restore the press pass of legendary blowhard Jim Acosta. The White House terminated Acosta’s access to the White House grounds after he refused to surrender the floor during a recent press conference. In fact, he refused to give the microphone back to a White House intern who was attempting to reclaim it. This was the last straw for Sarah Sanders, who decided that some semblance of order had to be restored to the interactions between the administration and the press, and some standard of professionalism, respect, and courtesy had to be enforced on White House journalists.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s request. He temporarily restored Acosta’s press pass, but he also made it clear that no reporter has an absolute right to access the White House or to ask the president questions. He left the door open to the possibility that the White House would be able to draft a formal policy for the revocation of press passes that would pass muster. Sanders and President Trump have made it clear they will soon issue such a policy.
Amazingly, CNN alleged in its lawsuit that Jim Acosta’s constitutional rights had been violated. His rights to free speech, press freedom, and “due process” apparently entitle him to harass the president, at whatever length he deems appropriate, on national television. The audacity of this claim is breathtaking. That Fox News would endorse this specious logic is a bitter blow to those conservatives who thought that Fox, at the very least, could be depended on to give Trump a fair shake. Not so.
Jim Acosta is a free man in a free country. He has been lavish in his criticism of Sanders and Trump, on Twitter and by other means, continuously—before, during, and after the infamous press conference. No one interfered with his right to free speech in any way, and nor was he at any stage unable to work as a reporter. In fact, more people are listening to the siren song of Acosta-ism now than ever before. One might even say that the volume of his speech has been amplified dramatically, courtesy of the president’s low opinion of him.
Despite this, Acosta and CNN claim the Constitution guarantees them access to the president. Now, keep in mind that a pass to gain entrance to the White House grounds is technically irrelevant to Acosta’s ability to pose challenging questions to the commander-in-chief. Trump could always refuse to call on Acosta at press conferences, even if the “rude, terrible person” is present.
Or perhaps I speak too hastily: perhaps CNN believes Acosta is entitled not just to stroll the White House grounds, but also to buttonhole the president (and his press secretary) as often as he wishes. Perhaps Acosta is even entitled to favorable camera angles, a glass of cool, refreshing water before each of his tirades, and a good night’s rest before each foray into rudeness. After all, each of these factors bears on Acosta’s ability to deliver his harangues effectively, and to scrutinize the president and his administration in a suitably public way.
One wonders, in fact, whether Acosta and CNN are also entitled to high ratings for their broadcasts of presidential dressings-down? Could all Americans refusing to tune into CNN during White House press conferences also be guilty of constitutional violations? It’s a question no American should dismiss lightly, given the creativity of liberal lawyers.
The truth, of course, is that in a free country every person is entitled to free speech, but one is also able to decide for oneself to whom one will speak. To put it in the starkest possible terms: the Fifth Amendment states that even those accused of a crime, even those obviously guilty of a crime, are not required to speak to the court that will hold them in judgment. And yet CNN (and its media acolytes) asserts that the President of the United States must, according to the Constitution, submit to the disrespectful and unprofessional “journalism” of Jim Acosta. Trump must allow Acosta to pontificate, and, presumably, he must give answers that satisfy Acosta, who otherwise will feel entitled to unlimited follow-ups, in pursuit of “the truth.”
The absurdity of CNN’s position is plain. CNN takes the view that President Trump, in his capacity as president, has no rights at all. He is merely a creature of the press. He is a punching bag, and it is for the Fourth Estate to decide how hard and how often he will be hit, and by whom. Ridiculous!
I encourage the White House in the strongest terms to continue to fight CNN’s lawsuit, to issue clear and strict standards that would govern the behavior of reporters, to create a formal process for the revocation of press passes, and, in due course, to expel Jim Acosta from the White House for good.
The White House press corps is by no means required to support President Trump or to ask him only softball questions. But the press is—or ought to be—required to show basic respect, decency, and professionalism in its conduct. And, if the journalistic luminaries in the White House Correspondents’ Association don’t like being held to the same standard as any other guest in the White House would be, well, they can vote for President Trump’s opponent in the 2020 election.
Of course, they were already planning on doing that anyway, as we all know.
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