BY EDWARD HELMORE
WASHINGTON (THE GUARDIAN) -- The Trump administration has fired another shot in its war with the US press, suspending the credentials of Brian Karem, White House correspondent for Playboy and an analyst for CNN.
The 30-day revocation was announced on Friday and echoes hugely controversial action taken against CNN’s Jim Acosta in November 2018.
Related: ‘The president's insane’: book by CNN's Jim Acosta charts Trump war on press
Acosta, a frequent irritation to Trump, had his pass taken away after the administration claimed he used inappropriate force in resisting an intern’s attempts to take a microphone from him during a news conference given by the president.
Karem had his pass suspended after an altercation with Breitbart reporter and former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka in the White House Rose Garden in July, around a “social media summit” convened by Trump and attended by some of his most ardent supporters. Both men attracted criticism for their behaviour.
In a letter to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, Karem’s attorney Ted Boutrous, who also represented Acosta, described the decision as “arbitrary and unfair” and claimed the White House had not spoken to a single witness seen on video “taunting and/or threatening Mr Karem”.
Boutrous argued that the White House’s decision “violates the first amendment and due process and is yet another example of this administration’s unconstitutional campaign to punish reporters and press coverage that president Trump doesn’t like”.
He added: “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.”
In response, also posted online by Boutros’s law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Grisham describedKarem’s behaviour as “inappropriate” and repeated what he said to Gorka: “Hey brother we can talk anytime you want or go outside and have a long talk.”
In response, Gorka shouted at Karem: “You’re a punk! You’re not a journalist! You’re a punk!”
Grisham offered a seven-point justification for removing Karem’s “hard pass” – which gives reporters access to White House press briefings, which are, in fact, rarely held by this administration.
“Mr Karem’s conduct,” she said, “taken as a whole, was unacceptable and disruptive and requires a response to ensure that it does not happen again.”
In a pair of tweets early on Saturday, Karem asked: “Q: what right does one who shows no decorum have to dictate press decorum? A: None.
“Q: what legal authority does the WH press secretary have to regulate the free press? A: none.”
In Acosta’s case, a federal judge, Timothy Kelly, found the White House claim about his behaviour was “likely untrue” and ruled in favor of the reporter, ordering the White House to reinstate his pass.
Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders argued in response “that there is no absolute first amendment right to access the White House”.
“We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future,” Sanders said, insisting: “There must be decorum at the White House.”
Grisham’s lengthy explanation of Karem’s punishment, and the delay in implementing his ban after the incident in question, suggests the White House is hoping this banishment will not be overturned for lack of due process.
Earlier this year Acosta published a book, The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America, about his experiences covering Trump.
Karem became a CNN contributor in September 2017, shortly after clashing with Sanders at a White House briefing.