CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta is a smart, tough reporter. He can also be a grandstander who seems to thrive on conflict with President Trump and doesn’t always know when to stop his aggressive questioning.
But whether you like Acosta’s style, it’s clear the White House crossed a bright line Wednesday when it took away Acosta’s “hard pass,” which allows him the access he needs to cover the White House.
That action amounts to punishing a member of the press for doing his job of informing the public — and then creating a false pretext to justify that relatiation.
Trump’s dislike of Acosta is well known, and he took it to a new level at a wild news conference Wednesday, calling him “a rude, terrible person” whom CNN should be ashamed of employing.
To make matters worse, Sarah Sanders lied — and circulated a misleadingly edited video to back herself up — when she claimed later that Acosta was being punished for “placing his hands on a young woman.”
A White House staff member was directed to take a mic out of Acosta’s hands; he certainly didn’t readily give it up but he was polite, and he came into physical contact with her only for a brief moment as he moved his arm to shield the mic.
I’ve heard various suggestions about how CNN or the press corps should respond to this retaliation: There should be a boycott, a walkout, a news blackout. And I’ve read the strongly worded rebukes from the White House Correspondents’ Association, from CNN and others.
But mere words aren’t enough. And a boycott or blackout not only runs counter to the core idea that the reporters are there to inform the public, but it also would cede the briefings to the worst Trump sycophants.
No, something more is called for: CNN should sue the Trump White House on First Amendment grounds. And press-rights groups, along with other media organizations, should join in to create a united and powerful front. (Fox News, which benefited from the press corps’ united front on its behalf when the Obama White House tried to exclude it from some briefings in 2009, should pay that solidarity forward by getting on board.) [Continue reading…]