Catherine Herridge/X

Acclaimed CBS reporter Catherine Herridge was fired from her role last month, along with about 20 other staffers and part of a purge affecting hundreds of employees of Paramount.

Herridge is now being held in contempt of court for refusing to identify her sources for a series of articles she did in 2017 for Fox regarding Yanping Chen, a Chinese American scientist who was investigated by the FBI for allegedly lying on immigration forms to work on a Chinese astronaut program.

After refusing to divulge to Chen’s lawyers about how she obtained the information, she is now being held in civil contempt, and faces $800 in fines per day until Herridge reveals her source. Herridge will have 30 days to appeal the ruling before she starts incurring daily fines.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper said that ” he recognizes the paramount and importance of a free press in our society” but said that the court “also has its own role to play in upholding the law and safeguarding judicial 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,” Cooper said.

Cooper ruled that Herritage must reveal her source and that Chen’s need to know trumps Herridge’s right to protect the identity of her source.

Chen sued the FBI and Justice Department in 2018, accusing them of violating the Privacy Act, which prohibts the public disclosure of private information about individuals without their consent, AP News reported.

Herridge’s lawyer Patrick Philbin, who previously served as White House counsel for the Trump administration, warned that forcing Herridge to turn over her sources “would destroy her credibility” and warned that it would raise national security concerns.

At the time of her firing, Herridge was investigating special counsel Robert Hur’s report on President Joe Biden, allegations of corruption against the president and Hunter Biden’s laptop, Legal Scholar Jonathan Turley reported. Turley noted that Herridge received pushback on these stories from CBS but continued to investigate anyways.

Early reports were that CBS seized her laptop and files, but several boxes have since been returned to her. SAG-AFTRA (The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) has condemned CBS’ decision to confiscate the documents.

“We welcome CBS News’ reversal which came after SAG-AFTRA’s intervention and widespread media coverage that underscored shared concerns about press freedom and the First Amendment,” SAG-AFTRA said.

CBS has pushed back and said that her files were not confiscated and said that they did not go through her files.

“Catherine’s personal belongings were delivered to her home one week ago, and we are prepared to pack up the rest of her files immediately on her behalf – with her representative present as she requested,” a network spokesperson said last week. “We are awaiting a response from Catherine and/or her representative to do so. We have respected her request to not go through the files, and out of our concern for confidential sources, the office she occupied has remained secure since her departure.”

Investigative journalist Lara Logan tweeted “When a free media is no longer desired by those in power, you no longer live in a free society. You have to fight for it. I stand w Catherine Herridge & Steve Baker.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted that “journalists are supposed to support any journalist who refuses to give up their source”, calling the decision “heroic” and that it is “obligatory to defy court orders to protect one’s source”.

Few other journalists have spoken out about the arrest of Steve Baker or Catherine Herridge being held in contempt for refusing to give up her source. Baker noted that both of them have the same judge.

The House Judiciary Committee, headed by Jim Jordan, demanded the network reveal who at CBS or its parent-company Paramount Global “made the decision to terminate” Herridge and wants to know why her confidential files were “seized” as part of the termination.

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