June 13, 2024

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Former Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge faces contempt order over refusal to divulge sources

2 min read

In a case with potentially far-reaching press freedom implications, a federal judge in Washington is weighing whether to hold in contempt a veteran journalist who has refused to identify her sources for stories about a Chinese American scientist who was investigated by the FBI but never charged.

The judge previously ordered former Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge, who now works at CBS, to be interviewed under oath about her sources for a series of stories about Yanping Chen. Chen, who was investigated for years on suspicions she may have lied on immigration forms related to work on a Chinese astronaut program, has since sued the government, saying details about the probe were leaked to damage her reputation.

But after Herridge refused to divulge to Chen’s lawyers how she acquired her information, the scientist’s attorneys are asking U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper to hold the reporter in contempt — a sanction that could result in steep monetary fines until she complies.

The long-running lawsuit, now nearing a crucial decision point, represents the collision of competing interests: a journalist’s professional obligation to protect sources and an individual’s right to pursue compensation over perceived privacy violations by the government. It’s being closely watched by media advocates, who say forcing journalists to betray a promise of confidentiality could make sources think twice before providing information to reporters that could expose government wrongdoing.

“Allowing confidential sources to be ordered revealed means that the public will have less information. The more significant the story, the more significant topic, the greater the loss to the public in not knowing the truth about what’s going on,” said longtime First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams. Abrams represented New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail after being held in contempt for refusing to divulge a source in an investigation…

Eric Tucker, Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press

2023-11-14 12:00:33

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