Masood Farivar contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON- A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the White House to restore the press credentials of Playboy correspondent Brian Karem, whose hard pass was suspended after he got into a shouting match with conservative radio host and former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka in the Rose Garden following a social media summit in July.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras found that White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham’s rationale for revoking the pass was too vague.
"White House events appear to vary greatly in character," Contreras wrote in his opinion. "Thus, without any contextual guideposts, 'professionalism,' standing alone, remains too murky to provide fair notice here."
In a statement late Tuesday, Grisham said the White House "disagree[d] with the decision," arguing it "essentially gives free reign to members of the press to engage in unprofessional, disruptive conduct at the White House." She added that Karem "clearly breached well-understood norms of professional conduct."
Karem's attorney, Ted Boutrous, told CNN he was pleased with the court's decision.
"The White House's suspension of his press credentials violated the First Amendment and due process and was a blatant attempt to chill vigorous reporting about the President," Boutrous said.
White House Correspondents’ Association President Jonathan Karl said WHCA would continue "to advocate for the rights of our members and against actions by the government that would have a chilling effect on journalism protected by the First Amendment."
While Justice Department lawyers representing the White House called Karem’s actions "clearly unacceptable" and defended the procedure used to pull Karem’s pass as “transparent, deliberate and careful,” the veteran reporter said he was singled out by the White House because of his critical coverage of the administration and blunt questioning of President Donald Trump.
"They just want to punish me," Karem said in an interview with VOA. “They want to punish me because they don’t like what I write. I’ve written 100 and some odd articles since the beginning of this administration and asked some very pointed questions of the president. I don’t think he likes the pointed questions, and I don’t think he likes or his staff likes what I’ve written."
This is the second time the White House has pulled an accredited reporter’s press pass and comes as Trump continues to denigrate critical media outlets as "Fake News" and "enemy of the people," encouraging public distrust of the media.
Last November, in a move unprecedented in the modern era, the White House lifted CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s media credentials just hours after he had a testy exchange with Trump at a White House press conference.
After CNN sued Trump, a federal judge reinstated Acosta’s pass, ruling that its suspension had violated Acosta’s right to due process.