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article imageOp-Ed: CNN vs White House — Constitutional issues in play

By Paul Wallis     Nov 13, 2018 in Politics
Washington - The revocation of CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s White House accreditation may have a major impact on media relations for the US government. A CNN lawsuit based on the Acosta case may be a game changer.
The Acosta case just happens to be a range of critical points in basic media relations. The theory and practice of White House media relations unavoidably includes the First Amendment and the Fifth Amendment and a piece of legislation called the Administrative Procedure Act:
1. The First Amendment, relating to free speech, in this case the constitutional right of reporters asking questions, is critical. The CNN lawsuit targets the First Amendment rights issue specifically in that the revocation had the effect of breaching a basic constitutional right.
2. The Fifth Amendment issue, the right to due process, relates to the arbitrary revocation of reporter access without due process, in this case.
3. The Administrative Procedure Act provision on which CNN bases its third charge in the lawsuit is that the revocation was based on no valid cause to revoke the reporter’s credentials.
If you’re getting the impression that there’s a lot more at stake in this lawsuit, you’re right. The Trump White House isn’t the issue in many ways. It’s the ability of the White House to shut down reporters in general, and whether that’s constitutional. That’s a much bigger, much more important ballgame.
Politicians may refuse to answer questions, or more likely dodge them, but the right to ask those questions is important. Failure to answer can be interpreted as an inadequate answer, or as dodging tough questions, or as an inability to answer. It’s like a court case, where the public can decide if these negative responses are adequate.
The bottom line here is that governments shouldn’t have any basis for blocking questions by revoking the right to ask them. It’s reasonable that news media ask questions. Asking questions is the basis of reporting the news.
The fight between Donald Trump and the media is no secret. Melodrama may be the norm in the Trump White House, but there’s no law enforcing the “right to throw tantrums”. Nor is there a law which says you can then disseminate doctored videos to prove a very minor and very debatable point regarding the interaction of White House staff with Acosta.
The doctored video was posted on serial right wing hack site InfoWars, a case of preaching to the converted. It’s intended to prove that Acosta “laid hands on” a White House aide trying to remove his microphone , thereby “proving” its case to InfoWars’ robotic audience of not-very-fussy right wingers and conspiracy theory addicts. As is often the case, the video’s context has nothing to do with the preamble to the flashpoint between Trump and Acosta. This is an “official” video, incidentally, and verified as such by no less than White House placeholder Kellyanne Conway, who incidentally says it wasn't doctored, just sped up. That's tampering any way you call it.
The White House also made this “laying of hands” issue the reason for revoking Acosta’s accreditation. That argument doesn’t fly, at all. To start with, at that time Acosta was an accredited White House reporter, and the aide therefore had no right to remove the microphone, if anyone wants to be strictly technical. In fact, if any instruction was given to remove the microphone, that instruction is in direct conflict with the reporter’s right to ask questions.
Are we impressed yet?
This White House, unlike any before it, has an obsession with controlling media. Any news it doesn’t like is instantly branded fake news. Any questions it doesn’t like are grounds for tantrums, and that’s not just Trump.
The other big question is simple enough:
When will this administration respond adequately to information and questions?
That’s just not happening since Trump took office. Not all news is fake. Reporters have to ask questions, and get answers. Government is dodging and ducking every issue, and that’s OK with someone? Why?
The current situation of the United States is that its national credibility takes a hit with every evasion, every tantrum, and every blatant lie or dissemblance. To have a policy of systematic evasion says nothing good about America, or where it’s headed.
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This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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