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Former Fox News Reporter Facing Charges for Refusing to Reveal Source



Catherine Herridge, once associated with Fox News and currently a reporter for CBS News, is confronting a contempt charge stemming from her steadfast refusal to unveil the identity of a confidential informant who had relayed to her pivotal details about an FBI probe into a Chinese scientist named Yanping Chen.

Lawyers representing Yanping Chen elaborated on the situation in a recent legal document, claiming that Herridge “refused to answer questions regarding the identity of her confidential source(s) and other aspects of her reporting process and editorial decision-making.”

Herridge had reported on the FBI’s meticulous investigation into Chen, a naturalized U.S. citizen. Notably, Chen had established a university that became the academic home for numerous U.S. military personnel. Following these revelations, in a significant move in 2018, the Department of Defense halted its financial aid for military members wishing to study at Chen’s institution. Feeling aggrieved, Chen initiated legal proceedings against the FBI. She was of the firm belief that the FBI or other governmental bodies had illicitly leaked confidential information to Herridge.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, the authority behind the order compelling Ms. Herridge to disclose her source, explained his reasoning in a motion to this effect.

“With contempt proceedings now teed up, one of two outcomes appears likely: either Herridge will be held in contempt in the near future and can immediately appeal that order, or, as sometimes occurs in these cases, the sources may release Herridge from the privilege rather than watch her undergo the consequences of contempt,” remarked Judge Cooper, an appointee of the Barack Hussein Obama administration.

Herridge’s legal representatives presented a compelling argument. They believed the court possessed the discretion to greenlight an appeal even before a contempt ruling was pronounced.

“The court should exercise its discretion to avoid forcing Herridge to suffer a contempt sanction as the price for securing review of her First Amendment rights,” Herridge’s legal representatives said.

Yet, Judge Cooper was unyielding in his stance.

“The court thus makes clear what may have been murky before: Exercising its discretion, the court concludes that certification is not warranted in this case because Herridge can appeal a subsequent contempt order.”

This unfolding drama has not escaped the vigilant eyes of press freedom advocates. Caitlin Vogus, the deputy director of advocacy for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, expressed her concerns in a recent blog post.

“Requiring reporters to face contempt before they can appeal may discourage them from insisting on their First Amendment right to protect confidential sources by taking their objection to a higher court,” Vogus wrote.

She further elucidated the potential ramifications for the journalistic community.

“Journalists are already under great pressure any time they face a legal demand to reveal a confidential source or other newsgathering material. If they can’t appeal an order requiring them to name a source without facing a potentially large fine or long jail sentence, some may think twice about continuing to resist.”

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