WASHINGTON – The USA TODAY Network and USA TODAY's parent company, Gannett, are joining other media outlets Wednesday in filing briefs in support of CNN's lawsuit against the Trump administration over the revocation of a reporter's White House pass.
"Whether the news of the day concerns national security, the economy, or the environment, reporters covering the White House must remain free to ask questions. It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the President and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons," read a joint statement from the news media organizations.
"Our news organizations support the fundamental constitutional right to question this President, or any President. We will be filing friend-of-the-court briefs to support CNN’s and Jim Acosta’s lawsuit based on these principles," it said.
The statement from the law firm Ballard Spahr was sent on behalf of Fox News, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, First Look Media Works, the National Press Club, NBC News, The New York Times, Politico, E.W. Scripps Company, the Press Freedom Defense Fund, The Washington Post, the USA TODAY Network and Gannett.
A friend-of-the-court brief, also known as an amicus brief, is filed when a person or a group has a strong interest in a case but aren't directly named as plaintiffs or defendants.
The Trump administration announced last week that it had pulled Acosta's White House credentials, known as a "hard pass," after a heated exchange between the reporter and President Donald Trump.
CNN filed a lawsuit Tuesday asserting that the "wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process."
"If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials," the network said.
Acosta was not the only reporter to rile Trump last week. April Ryan of American Urban Radio Network, PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and Acosta's CNN colleague Abby Phillip all drew the president's ire, and Trump indicated Friday that he might pull the credentials of other journalists he considers "unprofessional."
The White House dismissed the lawsuit as "more grandstanding from CNN" in a statement Tuesday.
"The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional," the statement said. "The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor."
Acosta has clashed with Trump at several news conferences over the past two years. At the White House last week, Acosta challenged Trump the day after his party's losses in the midterm election on his claim that a caravan of Central American migrants constitutes an "invasion."
When Acosta persisted in trying to ask Trump a follow-up question about the investigation into Russian election meddling after the president called on another reporter, the president called him a "rude, terrible person" and said CNN should be "ashamed" for employing him.
The White House later revoked Acosta's credentials, and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the move was justified and accused Acosta of having "placed his hands" on an intern who had tried to take away the microphone from him.
Sanders tweeted an edited video of the encounter, which sped up Acosta's pushing the young woman's arm away to make it look more like a karate chop.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly heard arguments on Wednesday from lawyers representing CNN and the Justice Department. The news network is seeking "an immediate restraining order" forcing the White House to return Acosta's credentials.
Kelly said he would announce his decision Thursday.