Former CBS reporter says network seized her confidential files

Ms. Herridge also told lawmakers that after beginning to work at CBS, she noticed that executives "limited points of views and voices."

Former CBS reporter Catherine Herridge speaks at a congressional hearing in Washington on April 11, 2024, in a still from video. (House Judiciary Committee/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Former CBS reporter Catherine Herridge said on April 11 that her former employer seized some of her files, including files containing confidential information.

Ms. Herridge told a U.S. House of Representatives panel in Washington that she was informed in a Zoom call that she was being terminated.

“I was locked out of my emails, and I was locked out of the office,” she said. “CBS News seized hundreds of pages of my reporting files, including confidential source information.”

Ms. Herridge said that was not normal, describing it as “an attack on investigative journalism.” She said that the move “crossed a red line” that “should never be crossed by any media organization.” Mary Cavallaro, an official with the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union, said she could not recall another instance in which a reporter’s files were seized.

A CBS spokesperson previously told The Epoch Times that the network had her files but had not gone through them. “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,” the spokesperson said.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government, which was holding the hearing, said that CBS “took unprecedented actions” regarding her belongings.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the actions were scary.

Ms. Herridge said she remains unsure why she was fired but described differences in opinion regarding reporting on Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, and the president.

“There was tension over the Hunter Biden reporting and the Biden administration, but I can’t say for sure why I was let go,” Ms. Herridge said.

Limited views, killed stories

Ms. Herridge also told lawmakers that after beginning to work at CBS, she noticed that executives “limited points of views and voices.”

“I was uncomfortable with that, because I think good journalism is about diverse voices,” she said.

Sharyl Attkisson, another former CBS reporter, who resigned from CBS in 2014 and now hosts a Sinclair Broadcast Group show, said that she saw stories she was working on killed while she was at CBS after phone calls came in from lawmakers and the White House.

“I felt a great deal of pressure channeled through my employer,” Ms. Attkisson said. “I was told the certain stories weren’t going to air because we were getting phone calls. And even though there was nothing wrong with the stories, ‘let’s just let it rest for a day. Let’s pick it up another time. They’re really mad this time.’”

According to Ms. Attkisson, the situations did not involve factual objections. “As I was told, they just didn’t like it or it is a story that they felt was unfavorable at times,” she said.

A CBS spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Sharyl Attkisson, host of Full Measure, in Leesburg, Va., on Jan. 14, 2022 (York Du/The Epoch Times)
Facing escalating fines

Ms. Herridge was sued while still with Fox over her reporting on an FBI investigation into a Chinese scientist. The scientist, Yanping Chen, has been trying to figure out who passed on information to the reporter.

After years of trying to find the identity of the people, Ms. Chen asked for Ms. Herridge to be ordered by a court to disclose the sources. U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, an appointee of President Barack Obama, issued such an order in 2023, finding that “Chen’s need for the requested evidence overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege in this case.”

Ms. Herridge refused to divulge the information in a subsequent deposition, prompting Judge Cooper to find her in contempt of the court. He issued a fine of $800 per day until she complied, although he stayed the order pending the outcome of an appeal she lodged.

Ms. Herridge said on April 11 that she was “living a legal nightmare” to protect her sources and called for Congress to pass H.R. 4250, or the Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act.

“[The act] would put an end to the sort of legal jeopardy that I have experienced first-hand in the federal courts,” she said.

Ms. Cavallaro and Nadine Farid Johnson, policy director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, also said they support the act.

Mr. Roy said on April 11 that Ms. Herridge “exercised her First Amendment right to maintain the source’s confidentiality.”

“If the press cannot protect its sources, then important truths may never come to light and Americans in our democracy suffer,” said Rep. Mary Scanlon (D-Pa.), ranking member of the subcommittee.

“It really is incumbent upon Congress to take action to make sure that the courts are not put in a position where they are exerting fines or possible jail time against journalists, because they don’t think they have the authority not to,” she said later.

Senate hasn’t taken up

The House Judiciary Committee advanced the legislation in a 23–0 vote in 2023. The full House unanimously approved it in January. But senators have still not taken up the bill.

“Let’s hope the Senate and the White House can figure this out,” Mr. Jordan said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated in March he supports the bill, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Kevin Kiley (R-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

“I have to talk to some of my members about Raskin’s bill, but I’ve always been a supporter of the shield law,“ he told reporters on Capitol Hill. ”I was one of the authors of the original shield law.”

The bill says in part that, with limited exceptions, “a Federal entity may not compel a covered journalist to disclose protected information.”

Ms. Cavallaro said she thinks if the act had been enacted before the ruling against Ms. Herridge, it would have played a role in the case.

Caden Pearson contributed to this report.


Zachary Stieber | The Epoch Times