WIND's Amy Jacobson suing Pritzker over ban from media briefings

Amy Jacobson (Photo: Lissa Druss)

Governor J.B. Pritzker may have ended his daily media briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, but Chicago radio talk show host Amy Jacobson isn’t giving up her fight with him.

Now she says she's taking the governor to court.

Jacobson, who co-hosts mornings with Dan Proft on Salem Media news/talk WIND 560-AM, was barred from attending Pritzker's press conferences last month after she spoke at a Reopen Illinois rally protesting the governor’s stay-at-home order.

The format of his briefings involved Pritzker responding to questions from journalists submitted through a pool reporter.

In explaining the ban, Pritzker said Jacobson had forfeited her status as a reporter by “taking an extreme position,” adding: "It’s not the way you act, it’s not the way your colleagues in the media act who are reporters. That is not a reporter. She represents a talk show that has a particular point of view. We allowed her to ask questions because once upon a time she was a reporter. But she proved that she is no longer a reporter.”

Amy Jacobson at Reopen Illinois (May 16, 2020)

Jacobson, 50, was employed as a reporter for NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 until 2007 when she was fired in the wake of an ethics scandal involving her coverage of a missing woman. Since 2010 she has worked as a talk show host at AM 560 The Answer, but still considers herself a journalist — as does her employer.

Jacobson and Salem Media announced today they filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Pritzker and his press secretary, Jordan Abudayyeh, for barring Jacobson from his briefings.

I reached out to Abudayyeh for comment and am awaiting a response.

On Sunday Salem Media released a draft of a 12-page complaint claiming Pritzker's ban violated Jacobson's First Amendment rights to freedom of the press and free speech as well as her rights to equal protection and due process. It seeks to enjoin Pritzker from excluding Jacobson from "generally available information and press conferences."

The lawsuit claims Pritzker was retaliating against Jacobson after she "consistently pushed for transparency and accountability from . . . Pritzker during his press conferences in recent weeks, particularly asking fair but embarrassing questions about the First Family."

Jacobson has harshly criticized Pritzker’s handling of the shutdown and challenged the governor on why his family traveled from a home in Florida to one in Wisconsin in apparent violation of his statewide stay-at-home order.

“The reason we sent Amy to these press briefings is because she is a dogged reporter with a reputation for holding public officials accountable," said Jeff Reisman, regional vice president and general manager of AM 560 The Answer. "Over the last two months Amy has done her job well, asking the tough questions that are on the minds of so many of our listeners.

“We’re disappointed that the governor would retaliate against her and take the unprecedented step of blocking her from his press briefings. We had hoped litigation would not be necessary, but it’s imperative for Amy to get back into the room and keep doing her job.”

Jacobson and Salem are being represented by Liberty Justice Center, a Chicago-based non-profit conservative public-interest litigation center with ties to the Illinois Policy Institute.

Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center, said: “It’s not up to Governor Pritzker to pick and choose which reporters can cover him based on how much he agrees with their coverage or their points of view. And keeping reporters out of the room because he disagrees with their line of questioning or point of view is a gross violation of the First Amendment.”

Sunday's comment of the day: Mark Quinn: I don't watch much TV news; as I've written before, TV news programming is usually a very inefficient ways of delivering news. However, during times like last night, and especially when the news and talk radio stations are not providing sufficient coverage of such very important developments, I, as do most people, turn to TV to find out what's going on. And I can only echo the sentiment of Rob and many of the commenters regarding Channel 2's coverage. Jim Williams and the whole CBS 2 team were outstanding. Channel 7's coverage was sparse and bizarre, with the coverage dismissing blatant and horrific property damage and physical assaults on police as "broken glass." And Channel 5's not interrupting SNL for coverage of last night's carnage? Shameful.