Fox News turns on President Trump and backs CNN’s lawsuit against White House

Fox News Channel announced Wednesday it will support CNN’s lawsuit against the White House over the temporary suspension of White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s “hard pass” press credential, revealing the company will file an amicus brief in defense of the partisan network.

Fox News issued a statement accusing the White House of “weaponizing” Secret Service passes for reporters:

“FOX News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential. We intend to file an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court. Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized. While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”

In a brief statement shared on Twitter, CNN thanked Fox News for backing its lawsuit against the White House.

NBC and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists told CNN that they will be joining the brief in support of the network.

According to Axios, the following news outlets are also joining the brief: The Associated Press, Bloomberg, First Look Media, Gannett, the New York Times, Politico, EW Scripps, USA Today Network, Washington Post, Press Freedom Defense Fund, and National Press Club.

CBS News released a separate statement saying the network will file a friend of the court brief in support of CNN.

CNN’s lawsuit in full:

CNN v Trump by on Scribd

Acosta verbally sparred with President Trump during a White House press conference on November 7, 2018, following the 2018 midterm elections. Trump said “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN” after Acosta asked him a question regarding Trump’s rhetoric regarding immigration and Trump’s television advertisements which have been described as racist.

According to the Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Acosta put “his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.” Video of the incident showed Acosta had lowered his free arm to shield the roving microphone from being taken by the intern, saying, “Pardon me, ma’am,” as he brushed her arm. Subsequently, Acosta’s press pass, US Secret Service security credentials facilitating entry onto the White House grounds, was suspended “until further notice.”

A CNN statement described Acosta’s suspension as, “retaliation for his challenging questions”. Sanders was accused of lying and of providing “fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened.”

The following day, the White House circulated a video which CNN said was doctored. The White House video matched a video posted by conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson of the far-right website Infowars, widely alleged to be edited to subtly portray the contact as approaching a physical blow.

Social media intelligence agency Storyful said that, within the two-second long snippet of video that is repeated within the 15-seconds long overall clip, three frames are paused a fraction of a second, resulting in the misleading impression that Acosta pushed the intern’s upper arm. Watson said that he did not alter the clip, obtained from a GIF posted at The Daily Wire and that he republished as a compressed MP4 file after adding a zoomed-in replay.

In the days following the suspension, as CNN made behind-the-scenes efforts to restore Acosta’s access and prepared a possible lawsuit toward this end as well, network news pieces quoted opinions of media law professor Jonathan Peters that “a journalist has a first amendment right of access to places closed to the public but open generally to the press […which] can’t be denied arbitrarily or absent compelling reasons” and of well-known free speech litigator Floyd Abrams, who said, “CNN might have reluctance to have a lawsuit titled ‘CNN vs. Donald Trump.’ That said, yes, I think they should sue.”

Trump said Acosta’s action as depicted was “not overly you-know horrible.” Concerning the clip, Trump said, “They gave a close-up view. That’s not doctoring.” Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway described the clip as not altered but sped up, taking exception to what she believed the “overwrought description of this video as being doctored as if we put somebody else’s arm in there.”

On November 13, 2018, CNN and Acosta, through counsel Ted Boutrous and Ted Olson of Gibson Dunn, filed civil suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Trump, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff/director of Communications Bill Shine, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, the U.S. Secret Service and its director, Randolph Alles, and an unnamed Secret Service agent, all in their official capacities. The filing also requested relief by way of an order temporarily restraining the White House from denying access to Acosta for journalistic purposes.

Amicus briefs were filed with the court in support of CNN’s case, from journalistic entities whose editorial policies range across the political spectrum. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief arguing that First Amendment free speech rights do not “restrict the president’s ability to determine the terms on which he does, or does not, engage with particular journalists.