October 24, 2009

Excluding Fox News -- unconstitutional?

Johnny Dollar's place has a Fox News Channel segment featuring lawyer Peter Johnson Jr. who argues that the White House excluding Fox from the "news pool" is probably unconstitutional. He claims there is a substantial quantity of case law on the matter.

But is it really?

I'm not certain, but I can make a judgment call. And that would be no -- I don't think ditching Fox from covering White House events is unconstitutional. Such an action wouldn't inhibit Fox from broadcasting, which is the essence of the First Amendment issue. Delaware Libertarian has an interesting thread related to this topic where post author Steve Newton says

The State having the power to restrict the free--even partisan press--is a greater danger to the American republic than anything that press might ever say.

I agree that it is a danger; however, is it unconstitutional? Former proprietor of Delaware Watch Dana Garrett chimes in (my emphasis):

And if the Nazi press wanted to be part of the press pool and attend White House News briefings, then as far as your concerned the White House is OBLIGATED to oblige them?

You [Steve Newton] are the one who claims to be the constitutionalist. Please point out in the constitution where the President is obligated to recognize just any "news organization" as responsible purveyors of free speech.

As often as I disagree with Dana, I must say he's on the money with the above. Does the First Amendment mandate that the White House permit a Neo-Nazi newspaper to attend a press briefing? Why or why not? And I say this as a defender of Fox News (just see my comment in the DE Libertarian thread, for instance). Where the constitutional hassles would arise is if the White House presses even harder on attempting to stifle Fox's ability to report the news (or their opinions) as they wish (within the usual legal limits, of course ... meaning libel, etc.). As I [hyperbolically] stated a couple days ago, Obama appears to be taking a page from one of his buddies elsewhere in this hemisphere. Indeed, the leader of Venezuela has clamped down on media outlets that have been "irresponsible" and that have "not told the truth."

Sound familiar?

Posted by Hube at October 24, 2009 10:05 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Hi Hube,

Just for the record, I don't think that the Obama administration should deny FOX news press pool privileges. It's unfriendly. I was glad that the other networks didn't go along w/ it.

I just don't think that the White House is somehow obligated to give FOX news the same array of access that it gives other networks if it honestly feels that FOX is acting irresponsibly.

As far as Chavez is concerned, from my reading (and I confess I haven't been reading as deeply about him as I once did)he wants to deny renewal of licenses to networks that actively supported the unconstitutional coup that threw Chavez out of power temporarily. No network in the USA would have their license renewed if they acted in such a seditious manner. Why should it be any different in Venezuela?

Posted by: Dana Garrett at October 24, 2009 10:22 AM

Hey Dana,

Thanks for the clarification on your Fox views.

As for Chávez, well, as you may know I have myriad friends and contacts in VZ and Chávez's actions go far beyond what you state in your previous comment.

Posted by: Hube at October 24, 2009 10:38 AM

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