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WND to sue Press Gallery
Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 09/03/2002 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
After enduring 19 months of delays, ever-changing goalposts, and what it sees as blatant double standards and discrimination, WorldNetDaily.com Inc. is preparing to sue the Senate Press Gallery in federal court for denying the popular newssite access to Congress.
Litigation attorney Richard Ackerman, representing WND on behalf of the non-profit United States Justice Foundation, sent a scathing letter Friday to William Roberts, chairman of the gallery’s Standing Committee of Correspondents, announcing the news organization’s intention to sue. The committee, consisting of five working journalists, chooses which news organizations will and will not be allowed physical access to cover Congress.
“Please be advised that this letter serves as our last request for approval of permanent credentials in the above referenced matter,” wrote Ackerman. “Unfortunately, if no action is taken by you or the Senate Rules Committee within the next 10 days, we will be forced to institute litigation in federal court.”
Although the Senate Rules and Administration Committee has legal authority over press access to the Capitol and nearby House and Senate office buildings, it has delegated that responsibility to the Senate Press Gallery, which in turn empanels the Standing Committee of Correspondents that actually evaluates and decides on applicant organizations.
No word yet from Senate
Three weeks ago, on Aug. 12, WorldNetDaily formally appealed to the Senate Rules Committee to reverse the Standing Committee’s Jan. 29 decision denying the newssite permanent press credentials. In the appeal brief filed with Rules chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., WND’s legal team argued that the Standing Committee violated the newssite’s constitutional rights as a member of the free press by discriminating against it on political grounds. A copy of the 31-page brief also was sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who shares governing authority over the press galleries.
In that appeal to the Senate, Ackerman said that the Standing Committee – whose current members work for Reuters, Cox Newspapers, Knight Ridder, Bloomberg News and the Columbus Dispatch – acted out of disdain for what it perceives to be the conservative bent of WND.
“The denial of application in this case was spurred by content-based discrimination because of political views,” he argued, pointing to a list of research items used by the committee to evaluate WND. The two-page list (page one and page two) was the only material turned over to WND’s legal team for its April 15 appeal in the Capitol, despite a written request for all documents related to the popular newssite’s case.
“The materials provided by Mr. (Frank) Wiggins (the Standing Committee’s counsel) make replete reference to stories about ‘conservatism,’ ‘Larry Klayman,’ ‘conspiracism,’ ‘the New Right,’ ‘[c]onservative bent,’ ‘[c]ulture war,’ ‘Judicial Watch,’ and other references to what is commonly associated with conservatism,” Ackerman noted. Content-based discrimination is, per se, a violation of the First Amendment – which states, in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” noted Ackerman, citing several case precedents in the Senate brief.
Suit to allege ‘intentional violations’
Turning up the heat, however, WND is now intent on taking the Press Gallery to federal court.
If the 10 days pass without positive action on the part of either the Standing Committee or the Senate Rules Committee, said Ackerman, WND’s complaint “will allege intentional violations of the First Amendment, intentional violations of the Ninth Amendment, business disparagement, defamation, intentional interference with economic advantage, anti-trust violations, violations of ‘sunshine’ laws, invasion of privacy, and other unlawful conduct.”
Defendants will include the Standing Committee of Correspondents as well as the individual committee members. In addition, the media employers of the five Standing Committee members may not be immune from prosecution. Ackerman wrote:
As WorldNetDaily recently reported, since receiving WND’s application for permanent Capitol press credentials early last year, the Standing Committee has demonstrated what Ackerman calls a “pattern of deceit”:
He says they have withheld public information, contradicted themselves, misrepresented facts, misled some of WND’s more than 2.5 million readers and even a U.S. senator, told half-truths and outright falsehoods, broken due-process and procedural rules, and pried into the news-gathering practices of an independent, privately owned for-profit news organization.
A few examples, among many others:
‘Defamed and disparaged’ WND
“Unfortunately,” Ackerman wrote to Roberts about the impending lawsuit, “it would appear that the Committee’s members have defamed and disparaged WorldNetDaily.com and its personnel in recent communiques to the public and through other conduct. It also appears that violations of Senate and House rules and protocol have been intentional and discriminatory. As well, there has been a conscious disregard of the Due Process to be afforded to my clients under the United States Constitution.
“Thus, it is our position that the Committee and its members are not immune from damages and injunctive relief given the conduct involved in this matter. Accordingly, the Committee’s members are advised to contact their own insurance companies with regard to any anticipated claims,” wrote WND’s attorney.
“We have suspected it would come down to litigation in the end,” said Farah. “This committee has insulted us as a company and as individual journalists – despite the fact that those applying for accreditation have far more experience and achievements in our industry than any of those gatekeepers on the committee. This group of elitists just doesn’t understand who they are tangling with and, more importantly, what they are tangling with – the First Amendment. We have exhausted every administrative remedy in this paper chase. Now it’s time for the courts to decide whether we still have a free press in America.”
Editor’s note: WorldNetDaily has a Legal Defense Fund, set up originally to help support the newssite in its litigation with Al Gore crony Clark Jones in Tennessee and other legal challenges we face from time to time – like the current one with the Senate Press Gallery. Readers who wish to donate to help in these matters may do so in two ways:
Contacts for Press Gallery case:
Kennie Gill, Senate Rules Committee chief of staff
Sheryl Cohen, Sen. Dodd’s chief of staff
Kyle Simmons, chief of staff for Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., ranking Republican on Rules Committee
Tad Vandermeid, Speaker Hastert’s legal counsel
John Feehrey, Speaker Hastert’s press secretary
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