White House suspends CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials and falsely accuses him of manhandling intern
On November 7, 2018, the White House suspended CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass, banning him from setting foot on the White House grounds indefinitely.
The unprecedented move came a few hours after a tense presidential press conference, during which Trump repeatedly insulted Acosta (and other members of the White House press corps) and a White House intern tried to physically remove Acosta’s microphone out of his hand. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later tried to justify the decision to suspend Acosta’s press pass by false claiming that Acosta had inappropriately “placed his hands” on the White House intern. The press secretary also tweeted a video of the altercation that had been doctored to make it appear that Acosta had hit the White House intern.
On the morning of November 7, the day after the 2018 midterm elections, Trump held a contentious press conference in the East Room of the White House. CNN’s Jim Acosta, a member of the White House press corps who often verbally spars the president during press conferences, asked Trump about why he had stoked fears of a migrant “invasion” of the United States. After a bit of back-and-forth, Acosta tried to ask Trump a second question, about the Russia investigation.
As Trump tried to cut Acosta off and call on NBC News’ Peter Alexander, a young woman — later identified as a White House intern — approached Acosta and tried to take the microphone out of his hands.
“Pardon me, ma’am,” he told her. “I’m trying…”
“That’s enough!” Trump said, cutting him off.
The intern grabbed the microphone that Acosta was holding, but Acosta would not let go of it, so the intern eventually gave up and sat back down.
Acosta continued to ask Trump about the Russia investigation, and Trump finally gave a cursory answer — “I’m not worried about the Russia investigation because it’s a hoax” — and told Acosta to sit down.
“That’s enough,” Trump said, as Acosta tried to ask yet another follow-up question. “Put down the mic.”
Trump started to walk away from the lectern, suggesting that he might end the press conference if Acosta did not stop asking questions. Acosta reluctantly let the White House intern take the microphone and then sat down. Trump returned to the lectern and the intern brought the microphone to Peter Alexander of NBC News. But before Alexander could ask a question, Trump went off on a rant about Acosta.
“I’ll tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” the president said, pointing at Acosta. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. … You’re a very rude person. The way you treat [press secretary] Sarah Huckabee is horrible, and the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat other people that way.”
Alexander stood up for Acosta.
“In Jim’s defense, I’ve traveled with him and watched him,” he said. “He’s a diligent reporter.”
“Well, I’m not a big fan of yours either, to be honest,” Trump deadpanned, prompting scattered laughter.
Acosta stood back up and called out the president for continuing to demonize journalists as the “enemy of the American people,” even after a Trump supporter had sent pipe bombs to the network.
“When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people,” Trump response.
CNN condemned the president’s response.
“This President’s ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far,” the network said in a statement. “They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American. While President Trump has made it clear he does not respect a free press, he has a sworn obligation to protect it. A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere.”
Even as mainstream journalists came to Acosta’s defense, far-right media and political figures began to adopt a different narrative — that Acosta had been violent toward the intern who tried to grab his microphone.
Paul Joseph Watson, an editor at far-right conspiracy news site Infowars, tweeted an altered video of the altercation between Acosta and the White House intern that appeared to show Acosta striking the intern, which did not actually happen. (In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Watson claimed that he did not deliberately alter the video.)
Although this narrative began on the far-right conspiratorial fringe, it soon moved into the mainstream.
At 7:46 p.m., Acosta tweeted that he had been denied access to the White House grounds and ordered to give up his permanent White House press pass, known as a “hard pass.”
I’ve just been denied entrance to the WH. Secret Service just informed me I cannot enter the WH grounds for my 8pm hit— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 8, 2018
The US Secret Service just asked for my credential to enter the WH. As I told the officer, I don’t blame him. I know he’s just doing his job. (Sorry this video is not rightside up) pic.twitter.com/juQeuj3B9R— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 8, 2018
Minutes later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced on Twitter that the White House had decided to indefinitely suspend Acosta’s White House press credentials.
To justify the suspension of Acosta’s press credentials, Sanders falsely accused him of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”
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. 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.
Contrary to CNN’s assertions there is no greater demonstration of the President’s support for a free press than the event he held today. Only they would attack the President for not supporting a free press in the midst of him taking 68 questions from 35 different reporters over the course of 1.5 hours including several from the reporter in question. The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it‘s an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration.
As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders statement on Jim Acosta
“This is a lie,” Acosta tweeted in response.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Acosta described what happened at the press conference.
“This intern came up to me — they’re describing her as an intern, I don’t really know who she is — and attempted to take the microphone away from me,” he said. “All I can say at that point is I was trying to hang on to the microphone, so I could continue to ask the president questions. Obviously, you know, I didn’t put my hands on her or touch her as they’re alleging, and it’s just unfortunate that the White House is saying this. You know, we all try to be professionals over there, and I think I handled myself professionally.”
CNN released a statement reiterating its support for Acosta.
The White House announced tonight that it has revoked the press pass of CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. It was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today's press conference. In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a thread to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support.
Oliver Knox, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, also released a statement criticizing the White House’s decision.
The White House Correspondents Association strongly objects to the Trump Administration's decision to use US Secret Service security credentials as a tool to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship. Revoking access to the White House complex is a reaction out of line to the purported offense and is unacceptable.
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.
We encourage anyone with doubts that this reaction was disproportionate to the perceived offense to view the video of the events from earlier today.
White House Correspondents Association statement
Later that night, Sanders tweeted out a copy of the doctored video that had previously been shared by Infowars. Journalists immediately pointed out that the video had been doctored, and CNN spokesman Matt Dornic Sanders of sharing “actual fake news.”
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
This is a video that Infowars made. They sped it up so that it seems more violent than it is. https://t.co/FH1tsGSSaU— Nicole Goodkind (@NicoleGoodkind) November 8, 2018
On November 13, CNN sued Trump and administration officials in federal court, alleging that Trump’s arbitrary revocation of Acosta’s press credentials without due process violates his First and Fifth Amendment rights.
According to the lawsuit, the Trump administration has repeatedly refused to grant Acosta any access to the White House.
On November 8, the day after stripping Acosta of his permanent “hard pass,” the White House denied Acosta’s application for a temporary “day pass,” which would grant him access to White House press events for 24 hours.
On November 9, the Trump administration blocked Acosta from covering a scheduled event in Paris featuring Trump and French president Emmanuel Macron — even though Acosta had already received press credentials from the French government to cover the event.
Trump also threatened to revoke more White House correspondents’ press credentials.
In remarks to the press on November 9, Trump was asked about whether Acosta’s press credentials would be reinstated.
“As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t made that decision yet,” he said. “But it could be others also.”
On November 16, Federal Judge Timothy Kelly granted CNN’s request for an order to reinstate Acosta’s White House press pass while the case is pending.
In a statement, CNN addressed the ruling:
Statement from CNN and @Acosta on today’s ruling: “We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days. Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.”— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) November 16, 2018