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CBS’s Major Garrett Tells CBN’s Faith Nation: There Should Be Limits on Decorum By Reporters At The White House

CBS’s Major Garrett Tells CBN’s Faith Nation: There Should Be Limits on Decorum By Reporters At The White House Read Transcript


- Jim Acosta, the lawsuit,the judge's ruling,

what's your take on what's been going on

and what the judge kinda said today.

You're covering it, butyou also can provide

a bit of analysis as well.

- I am what they sayin the legal community

an interested party.

(laughing)

- You said it, not me, I love it.

- 'Cause I work there,I'm in the same front row

that Jim Acosta is and that CNN is.

So, my takeaway initially is

this is more about the fight than the law.

CNN wants to fight, PresidentTrump wants to fight.

And even if he loses the fight legally,

he believes he willreinforce the larger fight

about decorum, respect for thepresidency, the institution,

and ways in which themedia step over some lines

and cross lines that they didn't cross,

and the only reason they're crossing them

is 'cause he happens to be president.

That is going to bepart of an echo chamber

regardless where thislands ultimately legally.

I think there are absolutist positions

having been taken in the legalpapers filed on both sides.

The government says itcan revoke a hard pass

under any set of circumstances.

That's an absolutistposition, whatever you say,

we can take it away from you

by fiat under any set of circumstances.

That's pretty intense, that's inviting

and investing in the government large

penalizing powers about access to a place,

in this case the White House,

but it could be Congress,it could be the Pentagon,

it could be someplace else in the future.

- And the judge was concerned about that.

- And the judge was legitimatelyI think concerned about it.

The CNN position is also toa certain degree absolute,

that there's no limits on thedecorum in the White House.

Well, I don't believe that as a reporter.

- So there are limits?

- I've exercised them.

Your audience might remember a Rose Garden

press conference we hadjust a couple of weeks ago.

Now I'm not holdingmyself up as the exemplar.

I'm just saying what happened to me

and the judgments I made.

I was in the back of the Rose Garden,

the President appeared tolook right at me, point at me,

I stood up, the White Houseaid handed me the microphone,

and I began to ask my question.

The President looked at me and said,

"No, not you, behindyou," signaling to Kaitlan

who works for CNN,interestingly in this case.

I handed the microphoneback and sat down, why?

Was I giving up my First Amendment rights?

No, the President said, "No, not you."

It's his press conference.

I'm either asked to ask a question,

given that privilege and thatresponsibility, or I'm not.

But guess who runs that?

He does, and somedayshe does, if it happens.

But whoever the presidentis, chosen by the people.

I'm chosen by my network to get a chance

to ask that person, chosenby the people, a question.

When he says, "No, not you,"I handed the microphone back.

Now some colleagues of mine might say,

"You coward, what's wrong with you?

"You clutch the microphone no matter what.

"You ask your question, you battle away."

That's not where I come down on it.

And like comedians who do not critique

other comedians jokes,

I don't critique otherreporters' questions.

I do what I do for my network

and for the public that I try to serve.

But that's where I come down on that.

- But this fight is clearly not over.

I mean, this feels like,look, let's just be honest.

We're talking here, oh,the cameras are rolling,

but look, Jeff Zucker andDonald Trump have a history.

- They do.

- This feels like, thistemporary restraining order

or whatever you want to call it,

this just seems like thefirst battle in a longer war.

- Right, there are deep equities involved,

and I'm not trying to be glib.

The First Amendment is important,due process is important.

And the court is struggling with things

that are not clearlydefined in this clash.

But I do think JeffZucker and Donald Trump

wanna have this fight

on behalf of not just these serious

and underlying legal questions,

but on their own reputation andrelationship to one another.

This fight, which in theTrump era does feel at times

inordinately personal andinordinately provocative.

He brings that to the table.

My own approach to that isto be as least emotional

in reaction to that as possible.

- I guess we did talk a little bit about

where this is going, butultimately there is a concern,

and I put out an articleabout this kind of work,

we're in the age to adegree of the correspundit,

this idea that you canbe a correspondent by day

and a pundit in that eveningnighttime block by night.

- Social media has fed that, for sure.

- Right, and it's just a disservice really

to the viewer out there,

not quite sure, you're acorrespondent, but boy,

you don't really quitesound like it at times.

I'm not suggesting that'syou, I'm just saying

that there are peoplethat have crossed over,

but keeping the title of correspondent,

and that seems like a big danger.

- David, I'm asked all the time

in airports and train stations,where I'm seen in public,

who do I believe, who do Ilisten to, who can I trust?

(sighs) That's a heavy question,

and it didn't seem to me like our industry

got asked that questionthe way it gets asked now,

and we have to own up to that.

When they're asking usif we're believable,

then we're not doing whatwe're supposed to be doing.

This blurring of being a correspondent

and being a pundit or being an analyst

while you're a correspondent.

Now some have said about my book,

"Wow, you wrote a book whileyou're covering the story.

"Is that really proper?"

What I try to do in the book is walk

that very journalistic line.

If there are points in the book

that are critical of the President,

it's where things thatthe White House said

or the President saidthat didn't in the end

add up to the facts that theythemselves later pointed to.

That's a fair journalistic appraisal.

There's nothing commentaryor pundity about that,

but I do try to avoid thatsense that I'm striking a pose

and I'm giving you an editorial judgment,

but lots of other reportershave strayed, I think.

And social media has certainlybeen a temptation in that,

big time temptation.

When the public is asking those of us

who are frontline reporters,who can they believe,

they're essentially saying

we're not sure we can believe you,

that's our problem of our creation,

and we have got to own up to that

and we have got to reverse that trendline.

- Before I ask you one lastquestion about the book,

one last thing on the Acostaor the whole scene and lawsuit,

just so I understand, thereisn't a First Amendment right

for reporters to be on the grounds

of the White House, right?

What's the situation there?

That's a, I don't wantto call it a privilege,

what word would you use?

Could Trump literally just say,

and it would be horrible PR wise,

but could he technically say, "Sorry."

- I have a memory of this,

dealing with the GeorgeW. Bush presidency,

'cause there was arenovation, you may recall it,

of the workplaces that theWhite House press corps

had on the White House grounds,

and for a period of timeduring that renovation,

all of the White Housereporters were offsite

across in an office buildingon Lafayette Square.

There was a conversation then,

wouldn't you all like to stay there?

More bathroom space, a bigger break room,

bigger offices, better technology.

And all the White Housecorrespondents said no,

we wanna be inside, wewanna be inside the gate

to have that physicalproximity to the briefing room,

to whatever aids maycome out for interviews

on the North Lawn, et cetera, et cetera.

So this question has been asked

and conceptually explored before,

meaning your offices will be offsite,

not by this President,but by George W. Bush,

thinking of that as aworkspace convenience question,

but we viewed it as, noaccess geography proximity.

Guess what, the First Amendment

doesn't get involved in any of that, okay?

The First Amendment isabout our right to publish

the rules under which we publish

and the responsibilities and equities

under that publishing right afforded to us

by the First Amendment.

Quite happily, the FirstAmendment does not get involved

in convenience, security, or geography.

- Right.- Guess what?

We deal with that face-to-facewith our deportment,

our comportment, our responsibilities,

and our interaction withthe government itself.

It ought to be negotiableat that close range,

and thank God we don'task the First Amendment

to get involved in geography,convenience, or security.

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