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Judiciary Committee Holds Free Press Hearing

Key witness Catherine Herridge described seizing her records as 'journalistic rape.'

Former CBS investigative journalist Catherine Herridge was the star at the House Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Fighting for a Free Press: Protecting Journalists and their Sources.” She gave blistering testimony on the record, much to the delight of the GOP. While the purpose of the hearing is ostensibly to encourage the Senate to vote on the PRESS Act that already cleared the House in January, it also allowed some uncomfortable truths to be immortalized in the Congressional Record.

Alongside Herridge, Mary Cavallaro, Chief Broadcast Officer of SAG-AFTRA, and another investigative journalist, Sharyl Attkisson, were on hand to blast censorship and promote the First Amendment. Attkisson also left the CBS network in 2014 after she claimed that her overlords killed stories that weren’t favorable to then-President Barack Obama.

Two Faces of a Free Press

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) kicked the hearing off with opening remarks to ensure the goal for all was to gather the facts. Ranking member Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) opening was less enthusiastic as he stared at his notes, not making eye contact. He warbled that the meeting was “to advance a false narrative of media bias. Congress is not the forum for personal grievances to be aired or resolved.”

Opening questions and remarks were anything but cooperative. Jordan asked Herridge if she wrote critical stories about Hunter Biden, his notorious magical laptop, the business, and the Biden family. Herridge replied: “I reported out the facts of the story. I called balls and strikes.”

“You sure did,” Jordan smiled and replied. “You reported the facts, and then CBS fired you!”

Herridge made good use of her platform and let fly a few salty statements, including, “CBS News’ decision to seize my reporting records crossed a red line that I believe should never be crossed by any media organization.” She went on:

When my records were seized, I felt it was a journalistic rape. When the network of Walter Cronkite seizes your reporting files, including confidential source information, that is an attack on investigative journalism. Multiple sources said they were concerned that by working with me to expose government corruption and misconduct, they would be identified and exposed.”

Other notable quips came from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) when he observed in speaking about the Hunter Biden laptop coverage: “The most closely guarded files in the government are not marked ‘Top Secret.’ They’re marked ‘Embarrassing.’” He continued: “It’s the most embarrassing that is important for the public to know.”

And in backhanded support, McClintock acknowledged, “CBS has the right to shape its own coverage no matter how biased it might be.” Our government, of course, has no such right.

The Back Story

Catherine Herridge, the Emmy Award-winning journalist, refused to turn over a source implicating a Chinese American scientist and college administrator as potential spies. She stood by her First Amendment right – and it killed her career. In February, Herridge was fired and locked out of the building; all files were seized. Days later, she still refused to name her source in the Chinese spy investigation and was held in contempt of court and fined $800 a day by US District Court Judge Christopher Cooper.

This is where Mary Cavallaro enters the picture. Cavallaro’s job is to negotiate the return of Herridge’s files. “This [PRESS Act] long overdue legislation represents a leap forward,” she said.

Adding to the damning testimony of Herridge, Sharyl Attkisson came in with a surveillance horror story of her own involving then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The claims included wire and phone tapping by the Justice Department while she investigated the indifference of the government that led to the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and diplomatic personnel Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty in Benghazi, Libya.

“Wrongdoers in government have their own shield laws that protect them from accountability,” Attkisson said.

Ah, Transparency

In January, the House passed the PRESS Act, which protects journalists from being forced to disclose sources to government agencies. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said the upper chamber will be addressing the bill soon and intends to pass it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

“One of our children recently asked me if I would go to jail if we would lose our house, and If we would lose our family savings to protect my reporting sources,” Herridge testified. “I wanted to answer that, in this country, where we say we value democracy and the role of a vibrant and free press, it was impossible. But I couldn’t offer that assurance.”

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