Home » News » CBS reporter’s firing raises questions with confidential-source case hanging over her

By Dennis Hetzel, published on February 17, 2024

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Paramount Global’s decision this week to eliminate 800 jobs, including 20 at its CBS News division, has raised questions whether the firing of senior investigative reporter Catherine Herridge was about more than cost-cutting. 

Conservative news outlets have touted Herridge for her work probing into the allegations surrounding President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and whether the president benefited personally from his son’s business relationships. 

The loss of her job also could leave Herridge on her own fighting a major First Amendment court battle over revealing her confidential sources that began when she worked for Fox News.

In 2017, Herridge reported that a Chinese-American scientist, Yanping Chen, was the subject of a federal counterintelligence probe. Chen sued the FBI, claiming that federal authorities illegally leaked information about her in violation of the Privacy Act. She sought a court order to force Herridge to disclose her sources.

After Chen subpoenaed both Herridge and Fox News, Herridge refused to disclose, defying a court order issued by Judge Christopher Cooper last August to reveal her source on the basis that Chen’s need for the information outweighed any legal right Herridge had to protect her source. 

Both Fox News and CBS News had publicly stated support for Herridge in her battle as Herridge faces the possibility of being held in contempt of court and fines of up to $5,000 a day. 

Herridge’s case has sharpened the focus on pending legislation in Congress to give journalists protections that mirror those in many state statutes. A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act, more commonly known as the PRESS Act, in June 2023. The bill has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the conservative New York Post is among right-wing outlets raising questions about Herridge’s firing, claiming that their sources say she ran into “internal roadblocks” at CBS in her efforts to dig into the Hunter Biden story. She joined CBS in 2019 as a senior investigative correspondent after a long career at Fox, and has been criticized by left-wing outlets as bringing a right-wing slant to her reporting. Herridge was reporting on the Hunter Biden case as recently as Feb. 12.

Meanwhile, a key FBI informant admitted this week he lied about the Bidens taking bribes, motivated by a desire to damage Biden. Alexander Smirnov was the key source House Republicans were citing in their investigations into Hunter Biden, the Associated Press and others reported.

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