Herridge used her First Amendment fight to urge passage of Press Act

Herridge used her First Amendment fight to urge passage of Press Act

Herridge used her First Amendment fight to urge passage of Press Act

Congressional testimony from veteran journalist Catherine Herridge last week is part of a First Amendment fight in Congress to protect journalists and their confidential sources.

Herridge’s testimony April 16 comes after she was held in contempt of court in March and fined $800 a day for refusing to reveal her source for a story about Dr. Yanping Chen, a Chinese-American scientist. Chen sued the government after learning she had been investigated by the FBI for alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Herridge’s hefty fine was stayed while she appealed the ruling from a federal judge.  

What brought Herridge before a House subcommittee last week is the bipartisan Press Act, which passed the House in January in a rare unanimous vote. The legislation is now awaiting passage in the Senate.

“I’m here today with a deep sense of gratitude and humility,” Herridge said during her testimony. “I appreciate the subcommittee taking the time to focus again on the importance of protecting reporters sources and the vital safeguards provided by the Press Act.”

Herridge may be best known as a no-nonsense national security correspondent at Fox News. She left that job for CBS News only to be shown the door in February in a company-wide layoff.  

During her testimony last week, Herridge said CBS locked her out of the building after her layoff and “seized” her reporting files that included information about her confidential sources.

“I can only speak for myself,” she said, “When my records were seized, I felt it was a journalistic rape.”

CBS later claimed the records were not “seized” and no one looked through them, though it appears CBS turned over Herridge’s records amid public outcry and demands from her union.

The hearing also included testimony from veteran journalist Sharyl Atkisson, who accused CBS News of left-wing bias when she quit in 2014, and from SAG-AFTRA union leader Mary Cavallaro.

“This long overdue legislation,” Cavallaro testified, “represents a significant leap forward not just for journalists, but for the sanctity of journalism itself, and for the Constitutional right to freedom of the press.”