Judge Holds Ex-Fox Reporter Catherine Herridge In Contempt For Not Divulging Sources

(Photo by Shedrick Pelt/Getty Images)

Mariane Angela Contributor
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U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper has held renowned investigative journalist Catherine Herridge in civil contempt Thursday, Associated Press (AP) reported.

The decision comes after Herridge’s refusal to reveal her confidential source behind a Fox News investigative series, according to AP. The stories in question shed light on Yanpin Chen, a Chinese American scientist who was investigated by the FBI but never charged. Cooper sanctioned Herridge to a daily fine of $800 to enforce compliance.

However, this penalty is on hold to allow Herridge time to appeal. Cooper acknowledged the vital role of a free press and the necessity of confidential sources in journalism, the outlet stated. Yet, he emphasized the court’s duty to uphold legal standards and maintain its authority.

“Herridge and many of her colleagues in the journalism community may disagree with that decision and prefer that a different balance be struck, but she is not permitted to flout a federal court’s order with impunity,” wrote Cooper, AP reported.

The legal battle stems back to 2017 when Herridge, then with Fox News, published a series of investigative pieces. These articles scrutinized Chen’s alleged connections with the Chinese military and questioned if her Virginia-based professional school was a conduit for the Chinese government to access information on American service members, according to AP. (RELATED: ‘Shot Across The Bow’: CBS News Correspondent Says 2024 Will Bring ‘Incredible Legal Exposure’ In Hunter Biden’s Case)

Herridge’s reports included materials believed to be leaked from the FBI investigation, including interview summaries, personal photographs and documents from immigration forms and internal FBI presentations, AP stated. Chen claimed these leaks smeared her reputation and harmed her livelihood, and sued the FBI and the Justice Department in 2018.

Herridge was ordered in August to reveal her sources in a deposition. The court ruled Chen’s legal interests outweighed Herridge’s journalistic privilege. Herridge, however, upheld her First Amendment rights and refused to disclose her sources under oath, AP reported.

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 16: (L-R) King Felipe VI speaks as public policy scholar at Woodrow Wilson Center Fernando Reinares, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Bruce Riedel, chief intelligence correspondent at Fox News Catherine Herridge, and director of the Elcano Royal Institute Charles Powell listen during a discussion at the Woodrow Wilson Center September 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Woodrow Wilson Center held a discussion on “Transatlantic Conversations: Confronting Common Security Challenges,” focusing on “U.S.-Spanish counterterrorism, joint efforts to stabilize the Sahel, and the shared struggle to counter extremism around the world.” (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 30: Catherine Herridge attends Paramount’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner after party at the Residence of the French Ambassador on April 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shedrick Pelt/Getty Images)

Patrick Philbin, Herridge’s attorney and former Deputy White House Counsel, argued that revealing sources would not only ruin Herridge’s credibility but also pose a risk to national security, citing concerns over Chen’s activities, according to AP. Both Fox News and Dr. Yanping Chen have commented on the news that Herridge has been held in contempt.

“Holding a journalist in contempt for protecting a confidential source has a deeply chilling effect on journalism,” Fox News said in a statement to Daily Caller. “FOX News Media remains committed to protecting the rights of a free press and freedom of speech and believes this decision should be appealed.”

“It is important to understand that without the protections of the Privacy Act, federal law enforcement can exploit its expansive powers to invade an American citizen’s private life and then selectively leak documents to smear reputations or score political points,” counsel to Dr. Yanping Chen said in a statement sent to Daily Caller. “Such misconduct should not be without recourse just because a rogue government official happens to launder his or her wrongdoing via a journalist. Today’s ruling is an important one to ensure that government officials can be held to account for outrageous abuses of power.”

The post has been updated with statements from Fox News and Dr. Yanping Chen.