Brian Karem, Playboy’s White House correspondent, said Friday that the White House told him his press pass would be suspended for 30 days beginning Monday.
Received an email today shortly before 5 p.m. from the WH: as of Monday afternoon my press pass is suspended for 30 days.
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) August 2, 2019
Karem and Playboy said they would appeal the decision.
Suspension of credentialed press by the government is incredibly concerning. We are working with our lawyers to appeal the decision to suspend @briankarem. Since 1953, Playboy has fought to protect First Amendment rights, and the fight must continue today.
— Playboy (@Playboy) August 3, 2019
Karem told the Washington Post that the White House had told him the suspension was the result of a back-and-forth he’d been in with former White House staffer Sebastian Gorka in the Rose Garden a few weeks ago.
“They’re claiming [the reason is] something that happened 21 days ago,” Karem told the Post. “I’m there every day. If this was an issue, it should’ve been brought to my attention long before now.”
“I know what they say the issue is, but that’s not the real issue, or they could’ve talked to me at any point in time prior to now. As a matter of record, they never spoke to me once about it.”
On July 11, at the White House’s “Social Media Summit,” Karem and Gorka exchanged words in the White House Rose Garden. Referring to attendees of the social media summit, the Playboy reporter said: “This is a group of people that are eager for demonic possession.”
Hearing that, Gorka confronted Karem, calling him a “punk” among other things. White House security eyed the situation, but it did not escalate to a physical fight.
The shouting match earned a presidential tweet.
@SebGorka Wins Big, No Contest!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019
After a few weeks, Karem told the Post, the White House told him that he’d “failed to abide by basic norms of decorum and order” during the exchange. That, Karem said, was the justification for suspending his pass.
Hearing of Karem’s suspension, Gorka thanked the President.
— Sebastian Gorka DrG (@SebGorka) August 3, 2019
The White House didn’t respond to TPM’s request to confirm Karem’s claims. Karem’s suspension recalled another suspension that was ultimately reversed by a federal judge, of CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass.
“This White House once again is arbitrarily enforcing rules with members of the press who take them to task by asking tough questions,” Karem told the Post. “That’s what this all about.”
“It’s an attempt to stifle the free press. It shouldn’t stand, and it won’t.”