The White House said Monday it has restored CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass, but warned him — and the rest of the press corps — that his disruptive antics will not be tolerated.
In a statement to the reporters covering the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said reporters called upon at press conferences will be limited to a single question unless explicitly given permission for more, and they must yield the microphone when prodded.
Both of those directives are aimed directly at Mr. Acosta, who the White House has accused of using his perch at CNN for “grandstanding” at the expense of President Trump and other reporters.
“We have created these rules with a degree of regret,” Mrs. Sanders said, pointing to years of press conferences that went off without the behavior Mr. Acosta displayed this month when he verbally sparred with Mr. Trump and then pushed aside the arm of an intern who tried to collect the microphone.
“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,” she said.
That was a reference to the lawsuit CNN filed, and other news organizations joined, asserting the White House was violating First Amendment press freedoms and Mr. Acosta’s Fifth Amendment due process rights by stripping him of his credentials to access the White House grounds after the incident.
The decision to restore Mr. Acosta’s pass is a reversal from last week, when the White House had sent a letter signaling it had made a preliminary decision to revoke it.
The back-and-forth comes just days after a federal judge ruled the White House had acted hastily in revoking his press pass, saying the administration didn’t give Mr. Acosta a process to be able to challenge the revocation.
Mr. Acosta and CNN had said the White House had little choice but to restore the credentials after that, and said the threat to re-revoke the credentials was illegal, since no rules existed at the time to prohibit Mr. Acosta’s behavior.
“Put simple, the White House’s illegal reaction after the Nov. 7 press conference cannot be made legal now by applying an after-the-fact concocted process,” wrote CNN’s lawyer, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr.
He suggested Americans want to see a collaborative process where CNN helps the White House write rules to govern future press conferences, rather than a continued push to go after Mr. Acosta’s pass.
The White House statement Monday signals that officials decided CNN’s input was not needed.
Mrs. Sanders did hint that more rules could come, though she said they’re hoping the press polices itself.
The White House Correspondents’ Association, which acts as liaison between reporters and the White House, praised the decision on Mr. Acosta’s pass, but suggested resistance to the new rules.
“For as long as there have been White House press conferences, White House reporters have asked follow-up questions,” said Olivier Knox, the association’s president. “We fully expect this tradition will continue.”