In a major escalation of President Donald Trump’s war with the media, the White House today suspended the access of CNN’s Jim Acosta from the White House “until further notice.” I have been highly critical of the President’s attacks on the media and, as many might expect, I am equally critical of this move. I felt Acosta was out of line in refusing to give up the mike at the press conference this week. However, he did not manhandle a female aide as suggested by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and the appropriate response would be to make it clear to CNN that its reporters are not allowed to defiantly retain a mike or yell over the President in such conferences.
The on-air confrontation between the President of the United States and Jim Acosta, the CNN reporter showed both men at their worst. The President launched into one of his tirades against CNN while Acosta refused to yield and gently pushed aside the hand of an aide trying to grab the mike. Sanders stated “President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable.”
While I felt Acosta crossed the line with his defiance and shouting, the video does not show a serious physical contact with the aide:
I felt sorry from the young woman trying to do her job, but she was not treated roughly.
CNN should address the conduct of its own reporter in his refusal to yield the mike and the floor. It seemed to me that Acosta, who I knew and like, was trying to argue with the President. I have no problem with reporters shouting outside to get responses from a president but this is a formal White House press conference. Reporters are given opportunities to ask questions but they are expected to yield the floor to waiting reporters.
None of this changes the fact that the President’s tirade was highly improper and chilling in calling Acosta the “enemy of the people.” That hyperbolic language is damaging to the Office of the President and potentially dangerous for Acosta and other journalists.
The suspension should be lifted immediately.