New Delhi: CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s access to the White House was revoked on Wednesday night. The development came soon after Acosta and US President Donald Trump clashed about the latter’s characterisation of a caravan of Central American refugees that has been moving towards the US border with Mexico as an “invasion”.
Acosta continued to question Trump, while a White House staffer attempted to forcibly pull the microphone from his hands. Trump called the CNN correspondent a “rude” and “terrible person”. “CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them,” he said. Trump also called the broadcaster “the enemy of the people” because, he claimed, it reported “fake news”.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Acosta “placing his hands on a young woman trying to do her job” was “absolutely unacceptable”. She said as a result of the incident, the correspondent’s hard pass has been suspended until “further notice”. Reporters who regularly cover the White House are routinely granted “hard passes” to ease entry and exit to the grounds.
This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
CNN defended Acosta in a statement, calling the White House’s actions “retaliation for his challenging questions”. “In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support,” the statement read.
Reuters’ White House correspondent Jeff Mason said he was seated next to Acosta during the press conference and did not witness him “placing his hands” on the young intern who was attempting to take the mike away from him.”He held on to the microphone as she reached for it,” Mason said in a tweet.
I was seated next to @Acosta at today’s press conference and did not witness him “placing his hands” on the young intern, as the White House alleges. He held on to the microphone as she reached for it. The @Reuters pictures below depict what happened accurately. pic.twitter.com/nO68Hf4eQM
— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) November 8, 2018
White House correspondents of several media outlets condemned the decision to suspend Acosta’s pass. The White House Correspondents Association also issued a statement supporting the CNN correspondent. “Journalists may use a range of approaches to carry out their jobs and the WHCA does not police the tone or frequency of the questions its members ask of powerful senior government officials, including the President. Such interactions, however uncomfortable they may appear to be, help define the strength of our national institutions. We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action,” the statement read.
NBC’s Peter Alexander, who defended Acosta during the press conference, was also rebuked by Trump. “I’m not a big fan of you either,” Trump told Alexander when the latter called Acosta a “diligent reporter”.