It’s Not About the First Amendment


I’ve been thinking a little bit today about the outcome (it really wasn’t a ruling) telling the White House that they must, at least temporarily, restore the hard pass of a CNN reporter. The judge in the case, a Trump appointee by the way, simply stated that the White House could not arbitrarily take the pass away – that it was a violation, not of the 1st Amendment, but the 5th, specifically due process.

I’ve been noticing the outrage from conservatives online, but I find (I’m not a lawyer) that the judges’ ruling is  fair. The White House should have written processes and procedures for not only granting, but removing the privilege (and yes, it’s a privilege to have a pass, not a right).  So the White House was in the wrong here but there are ways to remedy this and it’s easily apparent. Will they give CNN written notification with their justification for suspension of the pass and give them a chance to respond? That’s all that seems to be required here and would substantially end this invented crisis.

Does any reporter have a right to access the White House? Of course not or there would be thousands of suits claiming the right for anyone to be there whenever they wanted. The White House though needs to get their process under control, and until the last two years, it’s never been an issue with what I’ve witnessed, in some cases, as an out-of-control press contingent.

Without even suspending the pass again, there are other ways the White House could ensure that press conferences are less confrontational and make sure that not only does the press have access to ask questions, but that the public is informed without the conference becoming the circus it has become.

Of course, there’s nothing saying there has to be a daily briefing and the White House could just shut them down completely. They already hand out to reporters a written daily Presidential schedule and that’s really all they need to do. But this would be, in my view the samw as taking your ball and going home. A petulant response to something that would be far easier to control otherwise.

The White House could take the briefings completely off camera. LAst year they did this for a little while. What this does is prevent some of those in the rooming from preening for the camera, but it’s not a very good solution for the public that may actually want to watch the briefing.

What I believe is the best solution, is to implement press briefings the same way the State Department does. If anyone has ever seen one of those (they’re rarely broadcast) what we see is a single camera, pointed at the lectern, where the spokesperson stands. We never see, after a statement when reporters are questioning, those same reporters. No preening. They also have specific rules, it appears for a question and a followup unlke the White HOuse which says they have the same, but allow reporters, on camera to ask questions within questions, almost ad infinitum.

During this persiod I think it would be in everyone’s interest if the White House actually wrote down the rules for a press conference and distributed them to every news organization and reporter. Then implement the above, where the camera stays only on the speaker at the lectern and not give reporters the chance to turn what may be an important beirfin, into a circus for their own benefit.



2 thoughts on “It’s Not About the First Amendment

  1. Well, it appears that nowhere is there any sort of “traditional” decorum anymore. So, yes, make rules of behavior for members of the press who are granted Whitehouse privilege to briefings and cite consequences for misbehavior. Although we can’t seem to do that anymore for our school children, maybe we can make these children behave or face the consequences.


    • A couple hours after I posted this, I saw that the Press Secretary came out and said that there were indeed going to be rules (not her word) about how press conferences would be conducted. Good.


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