Catherine Herridge’s Resolute Stand: Defending Press Freedom Amidst Legal Battles

In a powerful rebuke against the encroachment on journalistic freedoms by the Biden administration’s Department of Justice, Catherine Herridge made a resounding statement at a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, advocating for the Press Act amidst her own legal battle over source protection. Herridge, renowned for her work with Fox News and CBS News, made her poignant remarks on Thursday, marking her most significant public address since being embroiled in a major First Amendment controversy.

Herridge, facing potential contempt of court penalties for refusing to disclose her sources in stories involving an FBI investigation, transitioned from Fox News to CBS News in 2019. However, she was among the 20 employees laid off by CBS in February, underscoring the challenges faced by journalists in today’s media landscape. During Thursday’s hearing, Herridge condemned the federal government’s encroachments on press freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Her recent contempt of court citation for refusing to reveal her sources underscored the existential threats such legal actions pose to journalistic integrity and the free flow of information crucial to a democratic society.

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“I was cited for contempt of court for refusing to divulge my confidential sources on a national security story,” Herridge recounted. “This legislation will provide protections for every working journalist in the US now and for the future,” she asserted, referring to the Bipartisan Press Act.

Herridge’s testimony vividly portrayed the chilling effect that the threat of contempt charges and pressure to reveal confidential sources exert on investigative journalism. She argued that without robust protections, the willingness of sources to provide essential information would significantly diminish, undermining the press’ role in holding power to account. Drawing from her own harrowing experience, Herridge underscored the ramifications of her case, which stems from a National Security Act lawsuit. “Forcing a journalist to disclose confidential sources would have a crippling effect on investigative journalism,” she emphasized.

Amidst personal and professional upheaval, including being laid off and having her reporting materials seized by CBS News, Herridge’s resolve has only strengthened. “The First Amendment, the protection of confidential sources, and a free press are my guiding principles,” she affirmed, expressing gratitude for the immense support from fellow journalists, First Amendment organizations, and notably, her former employer, Fox News.

“I deeply appreciate the Committee’s commitment to this legislation and convening this formal hearing,” Herridge concluded.

Herridge has been lauded for her detailed reporting on the Hunter Biden laptop scandal and is an award-winning journalist. She parted ways with CBS News in February amidst layoffs by its corporate parent, ViacomCBS. Herridge was reportedly in discussions with former NBCUniversal executive Linda Yaccarino at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, DC, earlier in the year for a potential show on the platform.

The veteran investigative journalist also faced civil contempt in March after a judge ordered Herridge to disclose the names of sources who leaked information about the FBI’s investigations of scientist Yanping Chen, who is suing the government. Under the order of an Obama-appointed judge, Herridge faced a fine of $800 per day for every day she refused to reveal her sources. The reports, published during Herridge’s tenure at Fox News, prompted Chen to file a lawsuit against the FBI in 2018. Herridge has alleged that the agency violated her privacy by leaking information without authorization. In 2022, Chen sought to compel Herridge and Fox News to reveal the source of the leaks through a legal subpoena, a move both resisted by citing First Amendment rights.

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CBS’s decision to terminate the acclaimed investigative journalist back in February was also controversial. The network took extraordinary measures by confiscating Herridge’s files, computers, and records, which reportedly included sensitive information on privileged sources.

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