Sending Office: Honorable Susan Wild
Sent By:
Zach.Fowler@mail.house.gov

CLOSING TODAY

Current Co-Sponsors: Rep. Susan Wild, Rep. Gilbert
R. Cisneros, Jr., Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Rep. Charlie Crist, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Rep. Jamie Raskin

Dear Colleague,

Please join me in co-sponsoring a resolution that expresses our commitment to a free press and demands that this Administration and all future administrations permit
press access to briefings and prohibit discrimination based on viewpoint.

This resolution is important to hold this Administration—and all future administrations—to account, and it is consistent with case law.  Courts have routinely rejected
viewpoint discrimination, while also prioritizing the need for a free and robust press when weighing competing constitutional interests. 

A free press has long provided a vital national service.  Our founding fathers recognized that the “freedom of Press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and
can never be restrained but by despotic Governments.” Please join me in protecting that national service.

Please contact Zach Fowler (Zach.Fowler@mail.house.gov) to co-sponsor this important resolution.

Sincerely,

Susan Wild

Member of Congress

 

WHEREAS American free press ideals can be traced back to a collection of essays known as Cato’s Letters, which criticized corruption and tyranny, and which armed
the public with critical information that eventually formed the basis for America’s revolution and independence;

WHEREAS in 1776 Virginia became the first state to formally protect the press by a Declaration of Rights declaring “[t]he freedom of the Press is one of the greatest
bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic Governments”;

WHEREAS our founding fathers memorialized the efficacy of a free press by expressly protecting the press in our First Amendment to the United States Constitution,
which Justice Potter Stewart once described as the “only organized private business that is given explicit constitutional protection”[1];

WHEREAS starting in 1902, the press moved into the first White House press room—a move that was “more than just convenience” and signaled that the press was “no
longer there just as guests of the president [but] [t]hey were filling a public function”[2];

WHEREAS the White House Correspondents Association was founded to “keep a daily watch on the administration”[3];
 

WHEREAS courts have consistently interpreted the First Amendment in such a way so as to prohibit “prior restraints,” or government actions that attempt to enjoin
publication except in exceptional cases where the press would cause “inevitable, direct, and immediate danger to the United States”[4];

WHEREAS courts have routinely rejected viewpoint discrimination[5]
and have consistently prioritized the need for a free and robust press when weighing competing constitutional interests[6];

WHEREAS a free press has long provided a vital national service by,
inter alia, reporting on the Watergate scandal that enveloped the Nixon Administration and exposed pervasive corruption that existed within the Executive Branch;

WHEREAS courts historically disfavor government censorship of a free press, including when the United States Supreme Court ruled that the government could not enjoin
the press from publishing newsworthy content based on vague pronouncements of “national security” and Justice Black stated, “[o]nly a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government…paramount among the responsibilities of a free
press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people…”[7];

WHEREAS courts have held that once the White House press facilities have been made publicly available to the press—as they have been for generations—the protection
afforded news gathering under the First Amendment requires that this access not be denied arbitrarily or for less than compelling reasons[8];

WHEREAS a free press is essential to democratic legitimacy and longevity, and past administrations have adhered to traditions and norms by holding regular open press
briefings;

WHEREAS today’s press has been called the “enemy of the people”;

WHEREAS the revocation of press credentials of certain members of the press without proffering compelling reasons or evidence to justify that revocation threatens
the very principles upon which this nation was founded;

WHEREAS the public and the press have sincere interest in key department and agency meetings, briefings, and activities, and briefings have been held that exclude
secular media without the proffering of compelling reasons or evidence to justify that exclusion;

WHEREAS U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected arguments that the Executive Branch has absolute discretion
in deciding who is entitled to participate in a press briefing;

WHEREAS U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has held that it is impermissible “to exclude a single…news
network…and to withhold White House press passes in a content-based or arbitrary fashion”;

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT all future briefings—in person or remotely—held by current and future administrations or its departments or agencies be made available
to press, and that any exclusions be consistent with case law requiring more than general pronouncements about national security and requiring evidence of compelling reasons.

 


[1] Potter Stewart, “Or
of the Press
,” 26 Hastings L.J. 631, 633 (1975).

[2] George Juergens,
Theodore Roosevelt and the Press, 111 Daedalus 113, 119 (1982).

[3]
History of WHCA, White House Correspondents Ass’n (2017) (www.whca.net/history.htm

[4]
See New York Times v. U.S., 403 U.S. 713 (1971); see also Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931).

[5]
Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the Univ. of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819 (1995);
Legal Servs. Corp. v. Velazquez, 531 U.S. 533 (2001).

[6]
N.Y. Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).

[7]
New York Times v. U.S., supra.

[8]
Sherrill v. Knight, 569 F.2d 124 (U.S. D.C. 1977).

Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Civil Rights, Ethics and Standards, Government, Judiciary, Rules/Legislative Branch

icon eDC logo e-Dear Colleague version 2.0
 
e-Dear Colleagues are intended for internal House use only.

Tagged: