Judge says White House must return Playboy reporter Brian Karem’s pass
A federal court judge restored Playboy magazine reporter Brian Karem’s press credentials after they were revoked by the White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham last month.
In a Tuesday decision in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Rudolph Contreras said that Karem’s First Amendment rights outweigh the interest the White House has in “maintaining order.”
Karem’s hard pass was suspended for 30 days, a decision that Karem appealed. The suspension came after an altercation between the Playboy White House correspondent and former Trump administration aide Sebastian Gorka in July after President Donald Trump’s social media summit.
Karem made a remark about the attendees of the summit, according to court documents, saying that they were “eager for demonic possession.” The comment provoked a reaction from Gorka.
Karem told him “Hey, come on over here and talk to me, brother, or we can go outside and have a long conversation.”
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In a video that spread on social media of the back-and-forth, Gorka approaches Karem saying “You are threatening me in the Rose Garden.” Gorka tells Karem, “You are a punk. You’re not a journalist, you’re a punk.”
Karem responds, “Go home” as Gorka walks away and onlookers chant his name.
Grisham said in a letter to Karem that “members of the press, at all times at White House press events, must act professionally, maintain decorum and order, and obey instructions from White House staff…”
“On July 11, 2019, you failed to abide by these basic norms ensuring decorum and order,” she continued.
The judge on Tuesday wrote that these standards are “murky” and were not fair notice.
Contreras wrote Karem is “likely to succeed” as the case moves forward and that the White House must restore his pass in the meantime.
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“Karem has, at this early stage of the proceedings, shown that he is likely to succeed on this due process claim, 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,” Contreras wrote.
“Meanwhile, Karem has shown that even the temporary suspension of his pass inflicts irreparable harm on his First Amendment rights,” he continued.
The White House said in a statement to CNN that the decision would give “free reign” to the press.
The Trump administration has previously revoked the press credentials of CNN’s Jim Acosta, resulting in the creation of new rules of conduct during presidential press conferences last year.
A judge ruled that Acosta’s credentials be returned in that case after an outpouring of media support for CNN.