Journalist Held In Civil Contempt For Not Identifying Sources Of Fox News Investigation

Source: CBS

A court ruling found Catherine Herridge, a TV news correspondent and longtime journalist, in civil contempt for her refusal to identify the sources related to an investigation she reported on for Fox News back in 2017. Herridge reportedly refused to divulge any information related to how she was informed of an FBI probe of an academic when she was deposed on the situation last September.

Herridge Reported On Chinese-American Scientist In 2017 Story

Herridge was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper to reveal her sources connected to a story that she reported on Dr. Yanping Chen. Dr. Chen is a Chinese-American scientist who established the University of Management and Technology (UMT).

Source: Wikipedia/U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The school, which is based in Arlington, Virginia, attracted a substantial number of military service members that received financial assistance for their tuition from the Department of Defense. The school’s mission statement focuses on “providing management and technology education to the public” in addition to promoting “academic excellence in higher education.”

Chen Investigated By FBI On Immigration Form Completion

Dr. Chen became the focal point of an FBI investigation about statements that she made on immigration forms in 2010. The forms were regarding the work she did for a Chinese astronaut program.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/FBI

Multiple reports confirm that Chen’s home was searched and there were materials seized. However, no charges were filed against her.

Herridge Reported On Investigation Into Chen Years Later

Herridge was the reporter of multiple stories related to Dr. Chen years after the FBI investigation into the UMT president. The stories, which were reported through Fox News, were about the case.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Hiraejaz42

Herridge targeted her stories on finding out whether Dr. Chen chose to conceal her former Chinese military membership when completing her immigration forms. The investigation also looked into whether UMT was used by Chen to funnel sensitive information about the United States military directly to the Chinese government.

Chen Filed Suit Against DoD, FBI About Alleged Leak Of Records

Dr. Chen filed suits against the Department of Defense (DoD) and the FBI in 2018 due to the alleged leak of her records. She claimed that the alleged leak violated the Privacy Act, which was designed to prevent federal agencies from sharing internal records or disclosing information within them without the person’s consent.

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

Chen is seeking damages along with an admission of guilt. She contends that the leaked information damaged her professional livelihood and overall reputation.

Fox News Had Access To Chen Family Photos, Immigration Form Excerpts

Herridge and Fox News reportedly gained access to a substantial amount of information about Dr. Chen. For instance, their reports included photographs of Chen’s family.

Source: Flickr/Steven Shorrock

There were also excerpts shown from the immigration forms that Chen completed. In addition, the reports also featured part of an FBI memorandum.

Chen Spent Years Searching For Government Leak Source

Chen reportedly spent years with her attorney searching for the source that provided the leaked information from the government. However, she had no success until the journey led her to Fox News and Catherine Herridge.

Source: Shutterstock/Bob Hanton

Her attorneys served Fox News and Herridge with separate subpoenas. Both parties strived to have the subpoenas overridden by indicating that Herridge’s work was safely protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Ruled That Dr. Chen Needs Source Revealed For Lawsuit Purposes

Judge Cooper ruled that Dr. Chen needs to know the identity of the source of the alleged leak for the sake of her existing lawsuit against the federal government. He concluded that Chen’s need overrode Herridge’s right to refuse the disclosure of her source’s identity.

Source: Pixabay/Artie Navarre

Cooper admittedly recognized the “paramount importance of a free press in our society” in his report. He also acknowledged the need for investigative journalists to use confidential sources for their reports. However, he also noted that the court had “its own role to play in upholding the law and safeguarding judicial authority.”

Fox News Supports Herridge, ‘Remains Committed To Protecting’ First Amendment

Fox News Media issued a statement that clearly expressed support for Catherine Herridge in this case. The company noted that “holding a journalist in contempt for protecting a confidential source has a deeply chilling effect” on the industry.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Clemens v. Vogelsang

The company fortified its stand on the matter by stating that it “remains committed to protecting the rights of a free press and freedom of speech.” Fox News Media believes that the judge’s decision should be appealed.

Judge Imposed Daily Fine On Herridge, Gave Her Time To Appeal Decision

Judge Cooper imposed a daily fine of $800 until Catherine Herridge complies with the court’s order to identify her sources. This means that she could be responsible for paying up to $5,600 a week in fines alone if the ruling stands.

Source: Pixabay/Ray Shrewsberry

Herridge will reportedly not have to worry about the fine right away, though. The longtime journalist will still have time to file an appeal of the judge’s decision before the daily fine goes into effect.

Herridge Worked For CBS News Before Fox News, Laid Off In ‘Cost-Cutting Effort

Catherine Herridge worked at CBS News as a senior investigative correspondent in 2018. However, her employment there ended in February as part of the massive layoffs and staff cuts made as part of a “cost-cutting effort” by Paramount Global, the parent company of CBS News.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/US Department of State

Paramount Chief Executive Bob Bakish issued a memo about the layoffs in mid-February that was later obtained by the Los Angeles Times. In the memo, Bakish noted that “part of streamlining costs” meant that they would “begin the difficult process of saying goodbye to some of our very valued colleagues.”

New York Times Journalist Faced Possible Imprisonment For Similar Charge

New York Times journalist James Risen came close to being imprisoned himself back in 2015 for a similar scenario. Risen reportedly refused to identify a source related to a case that involved a former CIA officer.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Haxorjoe

The former CIA officer faced accusations of leaking classified information. The Justice Department eventually concluded that they would not force Risen to testify. He was never imprisoned for the charges or his refusal to identify his sources.

Wall Street Journal Reporter Threatened With Fines, Imprisonment Over Refusal

Shelby Holliday made headlines in 2017 when special counsel Robert Mueller threatened her with the possibility of taking legal action. Holliday reportedly refused to reveal her sources related to a story about Roger Stone, a former campaign adviser for Donald Trump.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/BrokenSphere

Multiple reports confirm that Holliday did not have to pay any fines related to the case. As was the case with Risen, she also did not have to serve any prison time for her refusal.

A Close Analysis Of The First Amendment Protections

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution makes it clear that the freedom of the press is protected along with several other key freedoms. As a result, this amendment provides journalists and reporters the right to collect and report news without worrying about experiencing interference from the government.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Ed Uthman

Many people consider this right to be crucial – especially when it comes to investigative reporting and the journalism industry overall. Journalists and reporters must be able to maintain confidentiality when it comes to the identities of their sources when reporting on public interest matters.

Several U.S. Organizations Promote Advocacy For Journalist-Source Confidentiality

There are several professional and journalistic organizations throughout the United States that serve as advocates for the protection and preservation of the First Amendment rights and journalist-source confidentiality. These organizations include the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

Source: Pixabay/geralt

In addition to these organizations, there are some states that have enforced shield laws to further protect the First Amendment rights of reporters and journalists. The shield laws vary from state to state, but typically provide legal safeguards regarding the disclosure of source identifications.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

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