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Report: CBS News Seized Files, Computers and Records of Fired Journalist Catherine Herridge

CBS News has reportedly “seized the files, computers and records” of fired investigative reporter Catherine Herridge, including information on privileged sources.

“The network grabbed Herridge’s notes and files and informed her that it would decide what, if anything, would be turned over to her,” George Washington University law Professor Jonathan Turley reported at the Hill on Thursday. “The files likely contain confidential material from both her stints at Fox and CBS.”

As part of a restructuring drive to boost profitability, CBS’s parent company, Paramount Global, announced layoffs of hundreds of staffers last week, including Herridge. The firing of Herridge, who was CBS News’ senior investigative correspondent, sent shock waves throughout the news industry.

One former CBS journalist told Turley that many employees “are confused why [Herridge] was laid off, as one of the correspondents who broke news regularly and did a lot of original reporting.”

Even more shocking, according to Turley, was the seizure of her files, which he said is unheard of in the news business.  CBS’s actions have “alarmed many” including “current and former CBS employees,” he reported.

Turley said a former CBS reporter told him that “he had never seen a seizure of records from a departing journalist, and that the move had sent a ‘chilling signal’ in the ranks of CBS.”

A former CBS manager also told Turley that he had “never heard of anything like this.”

He attested to the fact that, in past departures, journalists took all of their files and office contents. Indeed, the company would box up everything from cups to post-its for departing reporters. He said the holding of the material was “outrageous” and clearly endangered confidential sources.

Herridge, formerly the Chief Intelligence correspondent for Fox News, is known for her objective and accurate reporting. With her good sources in the intelligence community, Herridge, unlike most of her peers, has been able to provide solid and trustworthy reporting on major stories, including the Russia hoax and the Biden family’s corruption.

Turley said that the timing of Herridge’s termination “immediately raised suspicions in Washington.”

She was pursuing stories that were unwelcomed by the Biden White House and many Democratic powerhouses, including the Hur report on Joe Biden’s diminished mental capacity, the Biden corruption scandal and the Hunter Biden laptop. She continued to pursue these stories despite reports of pushback from CBS executives, including CBS News President Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews.

The acclaimed journalist made waves back in December when she warned during a CBS roundtable discussion that a “black swan event” could occur in the next year.

During the Christmas Eve edition of “Face the Nation,” Herridge told fellow panelists that her prediction for 2024 was “a little dark” because she was concerned that it “may be the year of a black swan event,” which she described as “a national security event with high impact.”

Turley stressed that the media world is shocked by CBS’s seizure of Herridge’s files, which may contain sources who were promised confidentiality. “Journalists are generally allowed to leave with their files,” he explained.

Under the standard contract, including the one at CBS, journalists agree that they will make files available to the network if needed in future litigation. That presupposes that they will retain control of their files. Such files are crucial for reporters, who use past contacts and work in pursuing new stories with other outlets or who cap their careers with personal memoirs.

The heavy-handed approach to the files left many wondering if it was the result of the past reported tension over stories.

The law professor argued the company’s apparent belief that “the privilege of confidentiality” rests ultimately with CBS is “dead wrong.”

“As a threshold matter, that cannot be the case with regard to files that were generated during Herridge’s long stint with Fox News,” he noted. “Yet CBS appears to be retaining those files, too.”

When sources accept confidentiality assurances, it is an understanding that rests with the reporter. It is a matter of trust that can take a long time to establish on a personal level between a reporter and a source.

It is certainly understood that the network stands behind that pledge. However, most sources understand that their identity and information will be kept protected by the reporter and only disclosed to a select group of editors or colleagues when necessary. It is the reporter who implicitly promises to go to jail to protect confidentiality — and many have done so. Such agreements are less likely to occur if sources are told that any number of unnamed individuals, including non-journalists, could have access or custody of these files.

CBS could now face a showdown with the media union SAG-AFTRA.

A source with the media union SAG-AFTRA confirmed to Turley that the union has raised the file controversy with CBS “and remains extremely concerned about the effect of this action on journalistic practices and source confidentiality.”

The union believes this is “very unusual” and goes far beyond this individual case. “It is a matter of principle,” a union spokesperson added. “It is a matter of serious concern. We are considering all of our options.”

“CBS should reconsider this move before it does real harm to itself or its reporters,” Turley said.

Update:

SAG-AFTRA issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:

“SAG-AFTRA strongly condemns CBS News’ decision to seize Catherine Herridge’s reporter notes and research from her office, including confidential source information. This action is deeply concerning to the union because it sets a dangerous precedent for all media professionals and threatens the very foundation of the First Amendment.

It is completely inappropriate for an employer to lay off a reporter and take the very unusual step of retaining and searching the reporter’s files, inclusive of confidential source identification and information. From a First Amendment standpoint, a media corporation with a commitment to journalism calling a reporter’s research and confidential source reporting “proprietary information” is both shocking and absurd.

The retention of a media professional’s reporting materials by their former employer is a serious break with traditional practices which supports the immediate return of reporting materials. We urge CBS to return this material to Catherine in support of the most basic of First Amendment principles. We are encouraged by recent outreach by CBS News to SAG-AFTRA on this matter, and we are hopeful that it will be resolved shortly.”

Update:

The House Judiciary Committee has launched an inquiry into CBS’s seizure of Herridge’s personal files.

“The actions of CBS News threaten to chill effective journalism and weaken our nation’s commitment to a free press,”  the Committee said in a post on X late Friday afternoon.

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About Debra Heine

Debra Heine is a conservative Catholic mom of six and longtime political pundit. She has written for several conservative news websites over the years, including Breitbart and PJ Media.

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Catherine Herridge attends Paramount’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner after party at the Residence of the French Ambassador on April 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shedrick Pelt/Getty Images)

Notable Replies

  1. I’m sure CBS will be glad to return the files to Ms. Herridge once the FBI has rifled through them to ferret out who her sources were. And if I were a confidential source to Herridge, I’d be lawyering up–or fleeing the country about now.

  2. I am curious as to whether CBS singled out Herridge for her laptop and files or if other reporters that were laid off received the same treatment?

    It appears with the reporting that only Herridge’s files were taken, but not sure.

  3. Avatar for cdor cdor says:

    My guess is that any fired reporter who had been investigating the Biden family and/or Ukrainian kickbacks to American politicians had their files confiscated. That would eliminate all but Herridge because CBS doesn’t have any other reporters doing real investigations.

  4. You can’t allow someone like Catherine Herridge an opportunity to report on the Biden family. Why she has the ability to make the Biden’s look as corrupt as what they really are.

  5. The left sinks ever deeper into moral depravity to save Biden and the Democrat Party.

    Herrigde’s firing should be seen as another example of Democrats’ extremism. Perhaps they’re advertising it as a way of intimidating their political opponents from responding to whatever they plan to do in November. It’s what they did before the 2020 election to ward off any actions, legal or otherwise, contemplated against them.

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