By Elton Gomes
On Monday, the White House said that CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass has been “restored”. In response, CNN said, in a court filing, that it has dropped the ongoing lawsuit concerning Acosta’s access to the White House.
“Today the White House fully restored Jim Acosta’s press pass. As a result, our lawsuit is no longer necessary,” the news network said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to cover the White House.”
Timothy J. Kelly, the judge in the case, had criticised the government for not following due process before revoking Acosta’s hard pass on November 7.
According to media reports, on November 8, the White House revoked Jim Acosta’s credential pass after he was involved in a heated exchange with President Trump.
In a news conference on November 7, Acosta questioned Trump over the President’s scaremongering about the so-called “caravan” of migrants making their way through Mexico and the Russia probe.
When Trump tried to ignore him, Acosta refused to surrender a microphone provided by the White House, and attempted to ask Trump another question. A female White House staffer tried to take the microphone from Acosta but he held on. Trump then called Acosta “a rude, terrible person”.
In response to this, CNN filed a lawsuit against Trump and top White House aides. Besides Trump, the lawsuit named chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Sanders, deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine, Secret Service director Randolph Alles, and the Secret Service officer who took Acosta’s hard pass away last Wednesday.
Hours after the November 7 press conference, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement accusing Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern”.
However, Acosta only appeared to brush her arm as the White House staffer reached for the microphone and he held onto it. Acosta reportedly told the staffer, “Pardon me, ma’am,” as per an AP report.
White House shares doctored video
Sarah Sanders, on the night of November 7, shared a video of Acosta that seemed to have been altered so that his actions looked more aggressive towards the White House intern.
The video shared by Sanders raised several questions over its authenticity since Acosta’s statement, “Pardon me, ma’am,” was not included.
That edited video was first shared by Paul Joseph Watson, infamous for his conspiracy theory videos on the far-right website Infowars.
Side by side comparisons from fact checkers and experts such as Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, argued that crucial parts of the original video appear to have been altered in order to distort the action of Acosta’s hand.
CNN emerge victorious
In a major victory for CNN, on November 16, US District Judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the Trump administration to immediately return Acosta’s press credentials, stating that the journalist had suffered “irreparable harm” from the decision to bar him.
In addition, the judge also granted CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the Trump administration from keeping Acosta off the White House grounds.
The judge said Acosta’s credentials would be returned immediately and reactivated so that he can gain access to the White House. The judge noted that the government was unable to say who initially decided to revoke Acosta’s press pass.
The White House had stated its reasons for revoking Acosta’s pass in a tweet from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and in a statement after CNN filed its lawsuit. But the judge said those “belated efforts were hardly sufficient to satisfy due process,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
CNN calls for emergency hearing after White House threatened to ban Acosta again
On Monday, November 19, CNN requested an emergency hearing in US District Court after the White House once again threatened to revoke Acosta’s press credentials.
In the new court filing, CNN said White House officials on Friday sent Acosta a letter stating his press pass could be revoked again after a court-ordered temporary restoration expires at the end of the month.
In the letter to Acosta, White House communications official Bill Shine and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the decision to revoke his press pass “preliminary,” and warned that it could be “final” soon.
They offered Acosta the option of submitting a “written response” by Sunday. However, CNN maintained that the deadline was “arbitrary,” the Hill reported.
The White House letter said Acosta “violated basic standards” of news events after he got into a heated exchange with Trump on November 7.
“You asked a question and the president answered it,” the letter said. “You then shouted a second question at the president on a new topic, which the president answered at the same time he asked you to yield the floor to a new questioner. At that point, you continued shouting at the president and refused to physically surrender the microphone,” the AFP reported.
The news channel however retaliated and asserted that Acosta and CNN will continue to do their job. “These actions threaten all journalists and news organizations [sic]. Jim Acosta and CNN will continue to report the news about the White House and the President,” CNN said in a statement.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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