Fox News senior correspondent Catherine Herridge has been ordered by a federal judge to reveal the identity of a confidential source, according to a ruling issued by Judge Christopher Cooper of the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Herridge was a staff reporter for Fox News when the stories were published, for a series of 2017 articles about a Chinese-American scientist, who sued the U.S. government for privacy invasion.
The judge stated that Herridge’s reporting of the Chinese-American scientist included “snippets of her immigration forms, a summary of an FBI interview with her daughter, and personal photographs of her and her husband.” The network and Herridge had been in court fighting the subpoenas, claiming years of precedent that give broad First Amendment protections to the American press when it comes to anonymous sourcing.
But the judge ruled against Herridge, compromising years of precedence for the media. “The Court recognizes both the vital importance of a free press and the critical role that confidential sources play in the work of investigative journalists like Herridge,” said Cooper wrote. “But applying the binding case law of this Circuit, the Court concludes that the plaintiff’s need for the requested evidence overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege in this case.”
This ruling has sent shockwaves through the media industry, renewing calls for Congress to pass legislation that would provide further federal protection to journalists. The Protect Reporters from Exploitive State Spying Act (PRESS ACT), was reintroduced by a bipartisan group of legislators in June.
Herridge is being represented by Patrick Philbin, who served as former President Donald Trump’s deputy White House counsel. Cooper was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama.
The ruling poses a threat to reporting by holding journalists accountable for the truthfulness of their sources. Fox News did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
At this stage, it remains unclear whether Herridge and Fox News will comply with the court order. Revealing the anonymous individual used within the 2017 story series would set a controversial precedent for the future of journalism and sourcing.