White House suspends access for CNN's Jim Acosta after testy exchange
The White House suspended the press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta on Wednesday, hours after Acosta tangled with President Donald Trump during a televised news conference.
The move to punish Acosta by removing his access to the White House is believed to be unprecedented. The Trump administration barred another CNN reporter from attending an open media event in July but until now has not gone as far as removing a credential, known as a "hard pass," which enables journalists to enter the White House grounds.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders cited Acosta's brief confrontation with a White House press aide during Trump's new conference as the reason for suspending his press pass "until further notice."
During the 90-minute news conference, Trump snapped at Acosta after he asked why the president had called the Central American migrant caravan "an invasion" and "demonized immigrants." Following a lengthy and tense verbal back-and-forth, in which Trump at one point started to stray from his lectern and he called Acosta "a rude, terrible person," a female White House intern tried to take the microphone from Acosta.
Acosta held onto it, and raised his arm to stop the aide from taking it, in the process making contact with her.
In a statement announcing the disciplinary measure Wednesday evening, Sanders said, "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."
She added, "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 being supportive of a free press in the midst of him taking 68 questions from 35 different reporters over the course of an hour and a half - including several from the reporter in question."
On Twitter, Acosta responded to Sanders' statement with a simple declaration, tweeting: "This is a lie."
In a statement Wednesday night, CNN said that Sanders "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."
Acosta has frequently clashed with Sanders during the White House's irregular news briefings and with Trump in televised news conferences. Trump has repeatedly called him "fake news," turning him into a symbol of the president's general animus toward the news media.
Acosta has been one of the most outspoken reporters covering the administration since Trump took office. The White House has accused him of provoking confrontations, and he, in turn, has become a favorite target of insults lobbed by Trump's supporters, particularly during the president's raucous rallies. "I think I'm just covering a story, honestly," Acosta said in a 2017 interview with The Washington Post about his reporting style. "When the president of the United States calls the press 'fake news' and 'the enemy of the American people,' I think that's when you have to get tough and ask the hard questions."
Appearing on CNN on Wednesday evening, Acosta told host Anderson Cooper: " I was just trying to ask a question of the president. It was obviously a question he didn't like. . . . All I can say at that point is that I was trying to do my job." He added, "I didn't put my hands on her or touch her, as the White House is alleging. I do think, Anderson, that this is a test for all of us. I think they're trying to shut us down. I think they're trying to send a message to my colleagues."
Acosta said he learned that his access was withdrawn from a text message on his phone. When he went to the White House for "one last live shot," he said a security officer prevented him from passing through an entrance that he has used for the past five years. "I never thought that in this country I wouldn't be able to cover the president of the United States just for asking a question," he said.
This article was written by Paul Farhi and Amy B Wang, reporters for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's Lindsey Bever contributed to this report.