Playboy White House Correspondent And CNN Contributor Brian Karem Sues Over Press Pass Suspension – Update

By Bruce Haring, Erik Pedersen

Brian Karem
Brian Karem in the Rose Garden on July 11 Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

3RD UPDATE with lawsuit filed: Playboy senior White House correspondent and CNN contributor Brian Karem filed a lawsuit Tuesday against President Donald Trump and White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham over the suspension of his White House “hard pass” credential last week.

The filing (read it here) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia called the defendants’ revoking of Karem’s pass “arbitrary, unlawful, and unconstitutional,” and his Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP lawyers asked the court for a temporary restraining order to restore his credential immediately.

The lawsuit over the suspension, which stems from a July confrontation in the Rose Garden with former White House aide Sebastian Gorka, marks the second by a White House journalist in a year, following CNN’s Jim Acosta’s suit last November. Karem is also a CNN analyst, and claimed the Rose Garden argument was a mere pretext to revoke his credentials.

The damages-seeking lawsuit argues that the suspension violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, the First Amendment and claims ultra vires, saying Grisham’s ” ‘final determination’ to suspend Karem’s hard pass was made without legal authority.”

“As the D.C. Circuit has made very clear, the White House may deny, revoke or suspend a press pass based only on ‘explicit and meaningful standards’ that have been ‘publish[ed]’ so as to afford fair notice to reporters, and to avoid arbitrary or discriminatory punishments. Sherrill v. Knight, 569 F.2d 124 (D.C. Cir. 1977). Here, Ms. Grisham did not cite any legal authority authorizing her to order the suspension of a hard pass and admitted that Mr. Karem did not violate any published rule or standard; instead, she rested the suspension on his purported violation of what she claimed were generic unwritten ‘understandings.’

“Moreover, these unwritten understandings—that reporters maintain ‘decorum’ and ‘professionalism’—are too ill-defined, subjective and vague to satisfy the due process standards articulated by the D.C. Circuit in Sherrill.” The suit added that Grisham stated the standards she relied on apply only to “press events,” but “she admitted that ‘Mr. Karem’s conduct occurred after the press event had ended.’ ”

The lawsuit added: “Moreover, Karem lacked fair notice of such standards because the President has regularly breached any standard of ‘decorum’ by insulting, demeaning, and yelling at journalists at the White House and elsewhere.”

2ND UPDATE, August 16 PM: Playboy senior White House correspondent Brian Karem claims he will be suing over the suspension of his press pass by the Trump administration.

The lawsuit threat follows the 30-day suspension of his press pass, a ban which began August 5. The suspension stems from a July confrontation in the Rose Garden with former White House aide Sebastian Gorka. Their shouting match at the end of a press event there seemed poised to escalate into physical violence, but ended without such conflict.

If Karem files – and so far, it appears that he has not – he would be the second journalist to sue over White House access in a year, following CNN’s Jim Acosta’s suit last November. Karem is also a CNN analyst, and claimed the Rose Garden argument was a mere pretext to revoke his credentials.

“This is part of the administration’s concerted effort to stifle the First Amendment, abandon due process, and inject fealty among the press corps,” Karem said. “They’re using this as a pretense because I’ve been critical of this administration.”

Karem’s attorney, Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. of the white shoe firm Gibson Dunn, sent two letters to Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary. contesting the suspension. Grisham apparently met with firm representatives, but failed to satisfy their demands.

Playboy said it will back Karem in his legal efforts. In a statement earlier this month, they called his banishment “incredibly concerning.”

UPDATED July 12 with Trump tweet President Donald Trump couldn’t resist weighting in on the post-“summit” sideshow brouhaha, tweeting this morning, “@SebGorka Wins Big, No Contest!”

See the tweet below.

PREVIOUSLY, July 11 PM: I never promised you a Rose Garden brawl. But if the crowd had its way, we would have had one today.

Right-wing talk-show host Sebastian Gorka called out CNN political analyst and Playboy’s senior White House correspondent Brian Karem after Donald Trump’s White House event, and the two traded near-nose-to-nose insults before decorum — or at least sanity — prevailed. Video uploaded to social media today shows the men yelling at each other as a sizable audience watched and cell phone cameras rolled; check out some video below.

In one Twitter clip, Karem responds to a man off-camera who tells him, “Don’t be sad.” The pundit replies by addressing the group of conservative influencers who had gathered for Trump’s social media summit and were invited to stay for his ensuing address about how he plans to determine the citizenship of U.S. residents.

“This is a group of people who are eager for demonic possession,” Karem replies to his taunter with a mocking salute. After some laughs, Gorka is heard off-camera yelling, “And you’re a journalist, right?”

Game on.

“Come on over here and talk to me, brother,” Karem says. And Gorka obliges. As one woman in the crowd yells, “Hit him!” Gorka gets in Karem’s face and, after awhile, shouts in his face, “You’re not a journalist — you’re a punk!” He then turns and walks away.

It doesn’t end there. More taunts fly, with Karem telling Gorka, “Get a job!” After that, an off-camera voice says to the CNN analyst of Gorka: “Just for the record, he’d kick you punk ass.”

Here’s another angle, as tweeted by Katie Rogers of The New York Times:

Speaking of Joy Villa, who is named in the text of Rogers’ tweet above, here she is sparring with Karem after the Gorka ruckus, in a video posted by Fox News:



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