Brian Karem, Playboy magazine’s senior White House correspondent, is suing the Trump administration over the suspension of his press pass, becoming the second journalist in less than a year to launch a legal battle over that credential.
The 30-day suspension, which began on Aug. 5, follows a Rose Garden shouting match between Karem and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka in early July.
On Friday, Karem, who is also a CNN political analyst, told HuffPost that the argument was merely an excuse for the White House to punish him and infringe upon free speech.
“This is part of the administration’s concerted effort to stifle the First Amendment, abandon due process and inject fealty among the press corps,” he said. “They’re using this as a pretense because I’ve been critical of this administration.”
In footage of the July 11 altercation, Gorka can be heard saying, “You’re threatening me in the White House? In the Rose Garden?”
Marching into view of the camera, Gorka then declares, “You’re not a journalist. You’re a punk!”
As Gorka storms off, Karem yells, “Hey, Gorka, get a job!”
Karem’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous Jr., told HuffPost that the suspension was an “arbitrary decision” that “violates the First Amendment and due process,” calling it part of “this administration’s unconstitutional campaign to punish reporters and press coverage that President Trump doesn’t like.”
“The president and his administration are fostering an atmosphere of hostility and violence towards journalists that cannot be tolerated and they are illegally using the credential process to stifle freedom of the press and to disrupt the flow of vital information to the American people. We intend to seek immediate relief in federal court,” Boutrous said.
The White House has been “non-responsive” on the matter, according to Karem. He said he doesn’t anticipate that there will be any discussion between him and the administration, citing an existing lack of communication from White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who was named to the post in June.
“Since the new press secretary came in, she has avoided contact with me even prior to the incident they’re referring to,” he said.
In a statement released earlier this month, Playboy called Karem’s suspension “incredibly concerning,” adding that the magazine has fought in the past to “protect First Amendment rights, and the fight must continue today.”
In November of last year, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass was temporarily revoked following a heated press conference exchange with the president, during which an intern tried to grab a microphone from Acosta’s hand. CNN condemned the decision, calling it retaliation for the reporter’s questions and accusing then-press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders of raising false allegations against him.
The news outlet then filed a lawsuit against the president and White House staff. CNN later dropped the suit after securing the restoration of Acosta’s pass.
Playboy is backing Karem’s suit, and both he and his lawyer expressed confidence that the suspension will be struck down.
The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.