Playboy reporter Brian Karem on Sunday called the White House’s decision to suspend his press pass “unprofessional,” adding that he just made “a joke — and I’ll never apologize for a joke that got a laugh.”
“I am provocative, and I am a smart-aleck, but I’m not going to apologize for that,” Karem told Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources. “That’s OK, under the First Amendment. There have been far worse altercations occurred in the Rose Garden and by members of the press in the past.”
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Karem, the magazine’s senior White House correspondent, is suing President Donald Trump and press secretary Stephanie Grisham in an attempt to overturn a 30-day suspension of Karem’s hard pass, a long-term credential that allows journalists to enter and leave the White House with relative ease.
Grisham imposed the suspension following a high-profile altercation with conservative radio talk show host Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump White House aide, at an event in the Rose Garden in July. The two men traded insults, which were caught on video and quickly went viral. Karem was heard saying, “This is a group of people who are eager for demonic possession.” In turn, Gorka was heard saying: “You’re not a journalist — you’re a punk!”
Karem’s suit accuses Grisham of violating his due process rights by revoking his pass based on unwritten rules. A federal judge in Washington is expected to make a decision on whether to restore Karem’s pass in the days ahead.
In the interview, Karem — with Ted Boutros, his attorney — countered Stelter’s suggestion that his conduct at the White House event seemed unprofessional by saying that it was only true of the White House’s conduct.
“You cannot sanction actions by one and then make OK the actions of the other in that type of environment,” Karem said.
Boutros, who filed a suit that got Jim Acosta’s pass restored last year after it was revoked by the White House, said many of the arguments he made in court this week on Karem’s behalf were the same as those made in Acosta’s case. Boutros reiterated that Karem’s pass was suspended “out of the blue” and that the decision was “based on nonexistent standards.”
“This is part of a war by President Trump and his new press secretary, Ms. Grisham, to try to squelch and intimidate reporters from asking tough questions at the White House,” Boutros said. “That’s all it is. It violates the First Amendment, it violates due process and they’re trying to send a message to other reporters there in the Rose Garden, ‘Watch out, we’ll do this to you.’”
Karem told Stelter the White House’s actions reflected an anti-press agenda.
“At the end of the day, this administration, they’re never going to come at you straight on, Brian,” he said. “They’re never going to come at you and say, ‘Hey look, we don’t agree with the First Amendment.’ They’re going to come at you sideways.”