Judge Orders White House Reinstate Press Pass of Reporter Who Feuded With Sebastian Gorka

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A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the White House’s decision to revoke Playboy White House correspondent Brian Karem’s press pass, a decision which came down the ladder of the Trump administration after Karem got in a shouting match with Sebastian Gorka in July.

This is the second time the White House has tried and failed to revoke a reporter’s “hard pass,” including the Jim Acosta fiasco last November. The Trump administration has attempted to screw with these passes as much as possible, at one point revoking them en masse, but its arguments don’t seem to be holding much water. In Karem’s case, the White House argued the Playboy reporter breached vague “decorum” standards set in place after the Acosta mess (a shouting match with the president, in this case, plus the weird thing with the microphone).

District Judge Rudolph Contreras did not share that view, writing in his ruling that the Acosta standards weren’t specific enough, did not provide reporters with enough notice and context, and that Karem’s spat with Gorka in the Rose Garden therefore couldn’t be governed by them.


As you would expect, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham disagreed with the ruling, saying in a statement reported by Politico:

We disagree with the decision of the District Court to issue an injunction that essentially gives free reign to members of the press to engage in unprofessional, disruptive conduct at the White House. Mr. Karem’s conduct, including threatening to escalate a verbal confrontation into a physical one to the point that a Secret Service agent intervened, clearly breached well-understood norms of professional conduct. The Press Secretary must have the ability to deter such unacceptable conduct.


Contreras’ ruling granted a preliminary injunction to the White House’s ban, which means Karem must get his press pass back for the time being. As BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman noted above, the White House can appeal the decision, but for now, it appears the federal courts still have some interest in making sure the Trump administration can’t just retract press access to the White House at will, at least without establishing some kind of actual precedent and due process for its decisions.

For what it’s worth, Karem’s seemed pretty pleased with the decision:


Here’s the full ruling: