On Friday, Fox News aired a clip of correspondent Chris Wallace’s interview with President Donald Trump, which will air in its entirety on Sunday. The president was asked for a response to a ruling by a Federal judge against the White House regarding press credentials for CNN’s White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Trump said it is “not a big deal,” adding,“What they said, though, is that we have to create rules and regulations for conduct… we’re doing that, we’re going to write them up right now. It’s not a big deal. And if he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference.”

When Wallace asked Trump to describe the guidelines for media accredited to the White House, the president limited himself to saying that there will be “rules of decorum.” The president criticized Acosta for shouting during a White House press conference, saying, “Nobody believes in the First Amendment more than I do. And if I think somebody is acting out of sorts, I will leave. I’ll say, ‘Thank you very much, everybody. I appreciate you coming.’ And I’ll leave. And those reporters will not be too friendly to whoever it is that’s acting up.”

When Wallace asked Trump to describe the guidelines for media accredited to the White House, the president limited himself to saying that there will be “rules of decorum.” The president criticized Acosta for shouting during a White House press conference, saying, “Nobody believes in the First Amendment more than I do. And if I think somebody is acting out of sorts, I will leave. I’ll say, ‘Thank you very much, everybody. I appreciate you coming.’ And I’ll leave. And those reporters will not be too friendly to whoever it is that’s acting up.”

Federal Judge Timothy Kelly, who was nominated by Trump, ruled that the White House had denied due process to Acosta when it pulled the correspondent’s press pass. The judge ordered the White House to reinstate Acosta. Following the ruling, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders stated, “Today the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House.” She added, “In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass. We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future. There must be decorum at the White House.”

The White House pulled Acosta’s credentials in the aftermath of a contentious press conference that followed the November 6 election. When a White House intern sought to take away the mic from Acosta, he refused and then appeared to brush her away. Acosta continued to grill Trump, who called him “rude.” 
 
On Tuesday, CNN filed a lawsuit against the White House and several aides including Sanders, over his credentials. In the suite, CNN argued that the White House had violated the First and Fifth Amendment rights guaranteed to both CNN and Acosta. After the decision was announced, Acosta emerged from the court and thanked his colleagues in the media for their support. Fox News also lent support to its competitor. A statement from CNN and Acosta said, “We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days. Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.”

Some in Washington still remember that in 2008, the reaction was muted among media outlets such as the Washington Post and Slate when three major newspapers were bumped from the campaign plane of then-candidate Barack Obama. Obama was apparently displeased with coverage of his presidential bid provided by the Dallas Morning News, New York Post, and The Washington Post. In response to media inquiries, Obama’s senior campaign advisor Anita Dunn said, “Unfortunately, demand for seats on the plane during this final weekend has far exceeded supply, and because of logistical issues we made the decision not to add a second plane.” However, correspondents for Glamour, Jet, and Ebony -- none of which have the circulation attributed to the three bumped newspapers -- were given seats on the plane. “We’re protesting it and we’re not happy about it,” said editor Bob Mong of the Dallas Morning News, afterwards, “We’re not in a swing state, but given our history of outstanding political reporting, we’re upset, particularly when you see guys like Glamour on board.”

After his election, Obama was accused of avoiding press conferences and his administration was accused by media across the political spectrum of being among least transparent in recent decades. As such, the Obama administration set a record for having been withheld more Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests than any previous administration. 

Writing in 2009, media critic Brian Stelter wrote in the New York Times: "Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic," but “to an unusual degree,” the Obama administration “narrowed its sights to one specific organization,” which it has deemed “part of the political opposition.” Quoting one of Obama's top aides, Stelter wrote that she said: “We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,” in a reference to Fox News. “We don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.” Later, in an interview on CNBC, Obama responded to questions posed by reporter John Harwood, who suggested that some of Obama's critics were asserting that Obama was getting overly positive media coverage. 

Here follows a partial transcript from the June 2009 interview:

HARWOOD: Last question. When you and I spoke in January, you said—I observed that you hadn't gotten much bad press. You said it's coming. Media critics would say not only has it not come, but that you have gotten such favorable press, either because of bias or because you're good box office, that it's hurting the country, because you're not being sufficiently held accountable for your policies. Assess that.

Pres. OBAMA: It's very hard for me to swallow that one. First of all, I've got one television station entirely devoted to attacking my administration. I mean, you know, that's a pretty...

HARWOOD: I assume you're talking about Fox.

Pres. OBAMA: Well, that's a pretty big megaphone. And you'd be hard-pressed, if you watched the entire day, to find a positive story about me on that front. 

 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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