Reporter wouldn't give up microphone; access to White House now denied
By CHRISTAL HAYES | USA Today | Published: November 8, 2018
WASHINGTON — The White House revoked the press badge of CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta Wednesday following a tense exchange with President Donald Trump where the president called him a "rude, terrible person."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced the unexpected move Wednesday evening, explaining the decision was a result of both Acosta's behavior and him yanking back when a White House intern tried to take his microphone.
"President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration," Sanders said. "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."
The move is just the latest in the president's escalating war against the news media, which he blamed Wednesday as one of the reasons Republicans fell short in midterm elections. While news organizations and certain reporters have been barred from events, Acosta is almost certainly the most high-profile reporter to be barred from doing his job in the Trump-era.
Sanders said the "conduct is absolutely unacceptable" and Acosta's refusal to pass the microphone was "completely disrespectful to the reporter's colleagues" as it was not allowing them an opportunity to ask questions.
"As a result of today's incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice," Sanders said.
Acosta posted video on his Twitter account of Secret Service asking him to hand over his credentials outside the White House. Acosta, who says he's had the credentials for five years covering both the Obama and Trump presidencies, said he was denied entrance while he attempted to get onto the grounds for a 8 p.m. show.
"It was a pretty surreal experience," Acosta said on CNN, reacting to the news. "I never thought in this country that I wouldn't be able to go and cover the President of the United States simply because I was trying to ask him a question."
Journalists assigned to cover the White House apply for passes that allow them daily access to press areas in the West Wing. White House staff decide whether journalists are eligible, though the Secret Service determines whether their applications are approved.
Earlier in the day, Trump refused to answer a follow-up question from Acosta after the midterm races showed Democrats would take control of the House.
Acosta persisted in attempting to ask the president about the Russia investigation into interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump spoke loudly over Acosta -- with whom he has clashed repeatedly -- and demanded he hand over the microphone to White House staff.
"You should let me run the country. You run CNN," the president told Acosta.
Trump stepped away from the lectern, appearing as though Acosta's behavior would end the news conference. He returned to the microphone as Acosta sat down.
"I tell you what: CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them," Trump said. "You are a rude terrible person."
CNN stood up for Acosta, in a statement saying, "This President's ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far. They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American."
Sanders called CNN's statement "outrageous."
"The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it is an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who works in this Administration," she said in a statement.
The White House Correspondents Association released a statement Wednesday saying it "strongly objects to the Trump Administration's decision to use U.S. 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."
The WHCA called on the White House to "immediately reverse this weak and misguided action."
The White House revoking a reporter's press badge capped off one whirlwind of a Wednesday. In the morning, the president attempted to downplay the Democratic takeover of the House and what that would mean for him. He took aim at several reporters during his afternoon news conference. Then, hours later fired his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, possibly leaving the future of the Russia investigation in jeopardy.
Since campaigning for president, Trump has been at odds with the news media. He coined the phrase "fake news media" and has targeted certain reporters and outlets consistently over his two years in the White House.
There have been tense moments in the Trump White House where certain outlets and reporters were barred from individual events, including near the start of his presidency where CNN, the New York Times and other prominent outlets were barred from a briefing but allowed reporters from conservative outlets.
CNN White House reporter Kaitlan Collins said she was banned from a White House event in July after attempting to ask the president a series of questions that were deemed "inappropriate."
Contributing: Will Cummings, David Jackson, Asociated Press
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