As the White House on Monday backed off in a legal dispute with CNN over the press credentials of White House correspondent Jim Acosta, the White House announced new rules of behavior for reporters, which could result in the suspension of a reporter's press pass for asking more than one question of the President or top administration officials.
"We have created these rules with a degree of regret," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who directly blamed Acosta for the change, after the CNN reporter locked horns with President Trump in a post-election news conference earlier this month, refusing to give up the microphone while trying to get answers from the President about immigration policy.
Here are the new rules as set out by the White House, which were contained in an email sent on Monday afternoon through the White House Pool:
Monday, November 19, 2018 4:06 PM
Subject: In-Town Pool Report #3- Acosta/CNN Letter
From Press Secretary Sarah Sanders:
This afternoon we have notified Jim Acosta and CNN that his hard pass has been restored. We have also notified him of certain rules that will govern White House press conferences going forward. They are listed here:
- A journalist called upon to ask a question will ask a single question and then will yield the floor to other journalists;
- At the discretion of the President or other White House official taking questions, a follow-up question or questions may be permitted; and where a follow up has been allowed and asked, the questioner will then yield the floor;
- “Yielding the floor” includes, when applicable, physically surrendering the microphone to White House staff for use by the next questioner;
- Failure to abide by any of rules (1)-(3) may result in suspension or revocation of the journalist’s hard pass.
We have created these rules with a degree of regret. For years, members of the White House press corps have attended countless press events with the President and other officials without engaging in the behavior Mr. Acosta displayed at the November 7, 2018 press conference. We would have greatly preferred to continue hosting White House press conferences in reliance on a set of understood professional norms, and we believe the overwhelming majority of journalists covering the White House share that preference. But, given the position taken by CNN, we now feel obligated to replace previously shared practices with explicit rules.
We are mindful that a more elaborate and comprehensive set of rules might need to be devised, including, for example, for journalist conduct in the open (non-press room) areas inside and outside the White House and for Air Force One. At this time however, we have decided not to frame such rules in the hope that professional journalistic norms will suffice to regulate conduct in those places. If unprofessional behavior occurs in those settings, or if a court should decide that explicit rules are required to regulate conduct there, we will be forced to reconsider this decision.
The White House’s interaction with the press is, and generally should be, subject to a natural give-and-take. President Trump believes strongly in the First Amendment, and a free press and is the most accessible President in modern history. It would be a great loss for all if, instead of relying on the professionalism of White House journalists, we were compelled to devise a lengthy and detailed code of conduct for White House events.