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Even Trump’s favorite TV network supports CNN’s lawsuit against the White House

Fox News took the extraordinary step of speaking out on behalf of its rival.

President Trump Holds Rally In Nashville, Tennessee
CNN reporter Jim Acosta works as supporters of President Donald Trump shout toward members of the press before the start of a rally at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, May 29, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Fox News can usually be counted on to staunchly support President Donald Trump and his administration. But on Tuesday, network executives publicly rebuked the White House’s move to banish CNN reporter Jim Acosta from the White House.

Fox News president Jay Wallace wrote in a statement that “FOX News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential. We intend to file an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court. Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized.”

“While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people,” he added.

Wallace’s statement comes a day after CNN announced it sued the White House in federal court in an effort to restore Acosta’s credentials, which were stripped by the White House last week following a testy exchange he had with Trump during a news conference. A federal judge is holding a hearing about CNN’s lawsuit on Wednesday afternoon.

Fox News execs are saying something different than Fox News programming

While Fox News executives publicly express support for CNN, its on-air talent spent the past week trying to justify the White House’s decision to banish Acosta.

When press secretary Sarah Sanders announced Acosta’s banishment in a string of tweets last Thursday, she accused him of “placing his hands” on a White House aide who tried to physically remove a microphone from his hands during the news conference.

Later that same evening, Sanders resorted to sharing a doctored video to bolster her allegation that appeared to originate with the far-right conspiracy site Infowars.

While Sanders was widely criticized, Fox News personalities immediately began defending the White House, with host Trish Regan characterizing Acosta as “sort of wrestling that young White House intern” to the ground. (The video doesn’t show anything close to this.)

The White House quickly distanced itself from the claim that Acosta had a physical altercation with the woman. Trump himself said on Friday, “I don’t hold [Acosta] for that, because it wasn’t overly, you know, horrible,” and said his real problem was that Acosta “isn’t showing the proper respect for the White House.”

Fox News then defended the White House’s new position. On Tuesday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity went on a lengthy rant accusing Acosta of being a “far-left, grandstanding, sycophant left-winger” — as if that justifies preventing him from having access to the White House. Fox News’s president released his statement a few hours later.

The White House didn’t accuse Acosta of “placing his hands on anybody” in a 28-page memo filed in a federal court on Wednesday. Instead, the White House now says Acosta “refus[ed] to permit another journalist to ask a question.”

The judge presiding over CNN’s lawsuit, US District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, is a Trump appointee. Legal precedent suggests the network has a strong case.

Fox News is the latest of many outlets to express support for CNN

Fox News executives aren’t the only one signing on to CNN’s lawsuit. Other prominent outlets — including NBC News, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Gannett, the New York Times, Politico, USA Today, and the Washington Post — all plan to file amicus briefs in support of CNN, according to the Hill.

Ballard Spahr LLP, a law firm representing those outlets, released a statement on their behalf that expresses support for CNN.

“Whether the news of the day concerns national security, the economy, or the environment, reporters covering the White House must remain free to ask questions,” the news outlets said in a joint statement released by the firm. “It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the President and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons. Our news organizations support the fundamental constitutional right to question this President, or any President.”