News Release

Floyd Abrams: Barr’s Stance “Deeply Threatening to First Amendment”

At confirmation hearings on Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Attorney General nominee William Barr: “Will the Justice Department jail reporters for doing their jobs?”

Barr responded: “I think that, you know, I know there are guidelines in place. And I can conceive of situations where, you know, as a last resort and where a news organization has run through a red flag or something like that, knows that they’re putting out stuff that will hurt the country — there could be a situation where someone could be held in contempt.”

Today, Floyd Abrams, author of The Soul of the First Amendment provided the Institute for Public Accuracy with a statement responding to Barr:

“It’s one thing to say that there could be circumstances in which a journalist’s need to protect her sources could lead to a potential finding of contempt of court if she refused to obey a court order requiring such disclosure. But the notion that a journalist could properly be jailed for publishing material that the government thinks could ‘hurt the country’ is something else entirely and would be deeply threatening to First Amendment norms in general and journalistic freedom in particular.”

Abrams has litigated a host of critical First Amendment cases, including representing The New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case.