A spokesman for the Department of Justice praised two reporters who were briefly detained by police in Ferguson, Mo. Wednesday, calling them “gutsy,” while the federal agency is threatening to imprison a New York Times reporter who is courageously rebuffing the Obama administration’s demand that he name one of his sources.
But CNN host Jake Tapper helped the spokesman, Brian Fallon, distinguish what constitutes journalistic guts.
Fallon, who is also a former aide to Democratic New York U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, tweeted “DOJ is lucky to have a gutsy reporter like @Ryanjreilly on our beat. We knew that even before tonight. Glad he and @WesleyLowery are ok.”
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) August 14, 2014
Reilly is a justice reporter at the Huffington Post. Lowery covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. Both were arrested at a McDonald’s Wednesday while taking a break from covering the demonstrations in Ferguson, which are being held to protest the police shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old, Michael Brown.
The pair were detained for filming and for not heeding commands to leave the restaurant. Both were released on the order of Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson, who was reportedly frantic after learning that two reporters had been arrested.
While the ordeal generated outrage among many who felt it was as an affront to the freedom of the press, calling them “gutsy” was too much, according to Tapper.
And it was especially rich coming from a DOJ flack.
Tapper tweeted, “.@brianefallon how do you distinguish between the “gutsy” reporters and the one the administration is threatening to put in jail?”
.@brianefallon how do you distinguish between the “gutsy” reporters and the one the administration is threatening to put in jail?
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 14, 2014
The newsman was referring to the Obama administration’s effort to imprison New York Times reporter James Risen if he refuses to testify about a source who provided national security information that Risen used in a 2005 book. Risen reported on a Russian CIA operative who provided nuclear secrets to Iran. While the Bush administration attempted to compel Risen to testify about his sources, the Obama administration has “pursued Risen with increased vigor,” according to The Guardian.
Risen appealed as far as the Supreme Court, but it refused to hear his case. Obama’s Department of Justice has given no indication that it will spare Risen if he does not out his source.
For his part, Risen has steadfastly maintained that he will go to jail if he has to. The sentence would likely last longer than 45 minutes.