Judge Tells White House to Restore 'Playboy' Correspondent's Pass

A D.C. district court judge has told the White House to restore the "hard pass" for 'playboy' White House correspondent Brian Karem, saying he is likely to make his case that the withdrawal of that pass violated his due process rights, which would be the second such finding against the Trump White House.

Karem had sued Donald Trump and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham over an incident during a Rose Garden press conference following the President's meeting with conservative bloggers back in July.

Karem got in a verbal scuffle with one of those bloggers, several of whom were expressing their disdain for the "fake news" reporters covering the event, after which Karem's pass was revoked.

The court has previously found that reporters have "a First Amendment liberty interest in possessing a long-term so-called 'hard pass'—an interest that, under the Fifth Amendment, may not be deprived without due process," said Judge Rudolph Contreras.

The underlying issue has yet to be adjudicated, but Karem sought the restoration of the pass in the interim.

Karem claims that Grisham "unlawfully suspended his hard pass as a punishment following his involvement in [that] brief verbal altercation in the Rose Garden."

"Karem has, at this early stage of the proceedings, shown that he is likely to succeed on this due process claim," Contreras wrote, "because the present record indicates that Grisham failed to provide fair notice of the fact that a hard pass could be suspended under these circumstances...The Court therefore grants Karem’s motion for a preliminary injunction and orders that his hard pass be restored while this lawsuit is ongoing."

The Trump Administration has made no secret of its dislike of the media, and previously pulled the hard pass of CNN's Jim Acosta before D.C. Federal District Judge Timothy Kelly last November ordered it reinstated, saying at the time that the FCC had no process or standard for removing passes, so journalists weren't on notice of just what conduct would constitute revocation.

Judge Kelly did not say the White House could not come up with a process for revoking hard passes, but only that the White House had failed to do so and thus denied Acosta and CNN due process.

PEN America, which filed an amicus brief in support of Karem, was pleased. "The revocation of Brian's press pass by the White House was just the latest in a long line of unconstitutional attacks on the media for coverage that the president dislikes," said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.