May 23, 2024 - News

"Disgraceful": Larry Krasner shuts his biggest critic out of press briefings

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, left, and journalist Ralph Cipriano

From left to right: Larry Krasner and Ralph Cipriano. Photos: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images and courtesy of Ralph Cipriano

Philadelphia's top law enforcement official is working to silence one of his most vocal critics, longtime muckraker Ralph Cipriano.

Why it matters: The rare move escalates a feud with a journalist who has exposed problems within the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

Catch up quick: Cipriano — a former Inquirer reporter who successfully sued his employer for libel in the '90s — writes watchdog stories on his Big Trial blog, which has thousands of subscribers and has unearthed some of Larry Krasner's flubs, including:

  • The prosecutor falling behind on city property taxes, and the DA's office getting sanctioned for misleading a federal judge.
  • Cipriano has one of the biggest megaphones among critics who view Krasner as soft on crime.
  • The reporter, who considers himself politically an independent, says his blog "provides an unvarnished look inside the courtroom and a contrarian view of our progressive Democratic utopia."

Zoom in: Tension between Krasner and Cipriano has simmered for years.

  • Two years ago, Krasner had his security detail escort Cipriano from a news conference for not following the DA's rules.
  • The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press got involved and uncovered that Krasner's security team had been carefully documenting its interactions with the reporter.
  • Police kept a "working file" on Cipriano, per court records obtained by Axios.

The latest: After the journalist asked a question that Krasner deemed "disgraceful" at a recent press conference, and later spoke when he wasn't called on, Krasner barred him from future briefings.

What they're saying: Revoking press access is "very dangerous territory," says Reporters Committee attorney Paula Knudsen Burke, who represented Cipriano in the initial case. "We don't have state-managed media where only one preferred media outlet gets to say what the government wants them to say."

  • Burke called the ban "unconstitutional." She told Krasner in a past letter that, as a government official, he couldn't enforce "content-based restrictions on First Amendment activity."

Reality check: It's rare for a public official to oust a journalist — or succeed at it. After the Trump administration booted CNN anchor Jim Acosta from White House briefings several years ago, Acosta quickly prevailed in getting his credentials back.

DA spokesperson Dustin Slaughter tells Axios that Cipriano was banned because he repeatedly disrupts news conferences and talks over reporters.

  • Cipriano says Krasner skips him or calls on him last.

What's next: Cipriano tells Axios he's considering taking legal action against the DA's office to restore his access.

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