Going forward, reporters are only allowed to ask one question each and give back the microphone when asked, according to a letter distributed Monday by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine. The consequences for breaking any of these rules could include suspension or revocation of a reporter’s press pass.
The cementing of regulations occurred on the same day that the White House decided to restore Acosta’s hard pass after revoking it last week, prompting CNN to file suit. In a heated exchange caught on camera, Acosta refused to cede the microphone when questioning President Donald Trump.
The White House then barred Acosta from its grounds and tweeted a sped-up video of the incident, making it look like Acosta used force against the woman who tried to pry the microphone away from him.
CNN dropped its lawsuit on Monday after days of legal back-and-forth.
The White House Correspondents’ Association rejected the rules, saying it played no part in their formation. “For as long as there have been White House press conferences, White House reporters have asked follow-up questions. We fully expect this tradition will continue,” according to their statement.
Journalists and legal rights experts expressed their concern with the rules being enforced arbitrarily.
“They’re creating rules that are very easy to break and are likely to go unenforced until the government decides they want to make an example of somebody,” the Los Angeles Times’ Matt Pearce said.
Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology project, lamented that the rules “give the White House far too much discretion to avoid real scrutiny.”
Fox News’ Sean Hannity, however, read the letter’s contents aloud during his Monday night broadcast, commenting that the Acosta situation “may have ultimately made it easier to kick out people.” Lou Dobbs and “Diamond & Silk” also praised the new rules.