Award-Winning Investigative Journalist Catherine Herridge, Who Had Files Taken By CBS, Held In Contempt

Screenshot: CBS New York

Catherine Herridge, a veteran journalist formerly with Fox News and CBS News, has been held in civil contempt by a federal judge for refusing to reveal her source for a series of stories published in 2017.

Herridge found herself in hot water regarding a court case in which she was protecting the identity of a source used for a report written that year regarding a Chinese American scientist who was investigated by the FBI but never charged with wrongdoing.

The case has significant First Amendment implications.

Herridge was facing fines of up to $5,000 per day if she refused to be interviewed under oath for the case, a situation critics have defined as an attack on free press principles.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper imposed a fine of $800 per day until Herridge complies, which could lead to a total of nearly $300,000 if she holds out over an entire year.

The fine will not be imposed while she appeals.

RELATED: CBS Seizes Materials Of Fired Journalist Who Was Investigating Hunter Biden

Herridge Is Protecting Her Source

The judge’s decision to hold Herridge in contempt for refusing to reveal her sources is a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism.

It sends a message to potential sources that they cannot trust journalists to protect their identities, which could result in fewer people coming forward with important information.

Judge Cooper, in his decision, said that he “recognizes the paramount importance of a free press in our society” and the critical role of confidential sources in investigative journalism, but noted the court “also has its own role to play in upholding the law and safeguarding judicial authority.”

Cooper was nominated for his role on the bench in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama. He was confirmed unanimously in the Senate the following year.

RELATED: CBS News Chief Behind Firing Of Catherine Herridge In The Midst Of Investigating Biden Family To Receive Free Speech Award

Chilling Effect

Forcing journalists to reveal their sources undermines the public’s right to information and could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism. It is important for journalists to be able to protect their sources in order to ensure that the public is well-informed and that those in power are held accountable for their actions.

“Herridge has long been a respected investigative journalist at Fox News and CBS News,” writes Legal Insurrection’s Mary Chastain. “She has always faced the wrath of the left when she exposed anything negative about Democrats.”

Fox News issued a statement condemning the judge’s decision to hold Herridge in contempt.

“Holding a journalist in contempt for protecting a confidential source has a deeply chilling effect on journalism,” they said.

Even CBS News, who fired Catherine Herridge in the midst of this First Amendment battle and then temporarily seized her files, criticized the Obama-appointed judge.

A spokesperson for the network said that the contempt order “should be concerning to all Americans who value the role of the free press in our democracy and understand that reliance on confidential sources is critical to the mission of journalism.”

President Barack Obama himself has a history of chilling free speech and going after reporters.

The former President used his Department of Justice (DOJ) to try and shut down Fox News reporter James Rosen by spying on him and accusing him of committing a crime.

A 2010 subpoena approved by Eric Holder implicated Rosen as a possible co-conspirator under the Espionage Act of 1917. As such, investigators gained access to the times of his phone calls and two days’ worth of Rosen’s emails.

The DOJ also mounted a serious attack on the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press by seizing the records of reporters at Fox News and the Associated Press (AP).

The AP reporters – 20 of them – had their phone records subpoenaed through their providers, something they claimed at the time was a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into news-gathering operations.

Imagine this were a Trump-appointed judge in this case and instead of Herridge, the reporter trying to protect their sources was Jim Acosta or Don Lemon. Would there be outrage at that point?

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Rusty Weiss has been covering politics for over 15 years. His writings have appeared in the Daily Caller, Fox... More about Rusty Weiss

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