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Cornyn: More to SCOTUSblog Credentials Than I Initially Believed

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The lone member of Congress to publicly question the decision to deny SCOTUSblog congressional press credentials recanted his criticism on Thursday.  

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told CQ Roll Call that his views have evolved since Monday, when he sent out a tweet hours after the Standing Committee of Correspondents for the Daily Press rejected SCOTUSblog’s appeal that seemed critical of the journalists’ discretion.  

“I’ve had some further conversations that explained how that credentialing process occurs,” Cornyn said. “I understand that the intent is to create some standards that are useful in terms of making this an orderly place and … that it not be used for ideological or other purposes by people who’ve got an axe to grind.” The tweet, sent hours after the committee issued a letter to SCOTUSblog co-founder Tom Goldstein stating that the publisher fails the “fundamental test of editorial independence,” asked why the Senate delegated credentialing decisions to the mainstream media.  

“My concern was, I hoped that people weren’t discriminating against people who don’t, you know, print newspapers or who aren’t major cable TV stations,” Cornyn continued, “because I think a lot of really the most innovative news we find today comes from bloggers … but I understand there’s a little more to this than I initially believed.”  

SCOTUSblog’s ties to Goldstein and Russell, the law firm where blog publisher Goldstein earns his paycheck, strike Cornyn as a concern. Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a congressional press pass states, in part, that applicants’ publications must be “editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government, or that is not principally a general news organization.”  

The journalists who chose to deny SCOTUSblog credentials say the award-winning blog is “editorially intertwined” with a law partner and a firm that lobbies the federal government. Arguing cases before the high court is, in the journalists’ opinion, a form of lobbying.  

Goldstein rejects that line of reasoning.

“We obviously have a different conception from the Committee on what it means to be a journalist and what it means to be independent,” he wrote in a blog post, explaining his decision to appeal to the Senate Rules Committee.

Cornyn is not among the 18 members of the committee.

Rules Chairman Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday declined to answer any questions about SCOTUSblog, referring CQ Roll Call to committee staff who did not respond to inquiries.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., ranking member of the committee, said he did not know anything about the issue and would have to do his “homework.”

Other members also indicated they were not familiar with SCOTUSblog and its quest for credentials.

Goldstein has implied the decision may ultimately play out in a legal battle. He believes the committee’s rationale for issuing credentials “is sweeping and has broad implications for whether non-traditional media is regarded as ‘journalism.’ ”