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White House suspends press pass of CNN’s Jim Acosta after his testy exchange with Trump

WASHINGTON – The White House suspended the press credentials of
CNN reporter Jim Acosta on Wednesday, hours after President
Donald Trump took issue with questions Acosta asked at a 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 a journalist
to enter the White House grounds.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders cited Acosta’s brief physical
confrontation with a White House press aide during Trump’s
midday news conference as the reason for suspending his press
pass “until further notice.”

As
President Donald Trump points to CNN’s Jim Acosta, a White House
aide takes the microphone from him during a news conference in
the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in
Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP

During the 90-minute session at the White House, Trump snapped
at Acosta after the reporter asked whether the president had
“demonized immigrants” by calling a caravan of Central American
migrants “an invasion.” After a lengthy and tense
back-and-forth, a female White House intern tried to take the
microphone from Acosta.

Acosta held onto it and raised an arm to shield it, in the
process making contact with the aide. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he
told the woman.

After their exchange, Trump told Acosta: “CNN should be ashamed
of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible
person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. You’re a very rude
person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the
way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat
people that way.”

President
Donald Trump answers a question from CNN journalist Jim Acosta
during a news conference in the East Room of the White House,
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP

On Wednesday night, Sanders accused Acosta of “placing his
hands on a young woman” and said it was on those grounds that
Acosta’s press pass was being suspended.

“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and
welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration,”
Sanders said in a statement. “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.”

Video of the exchange showed otherwise. On Twitter, Acosta
responded to the press secretary’s statement with, simply:
“This is a lie.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association called the White
House’s reaction “out of line to the purported offense” and
urged that Acosta’s press pass be restored.

Appearing on CNN, Acosta told host Anderson Cooper on Wednesday
evening that he was “just trying to ask a question of the
president.”

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 denied from a text
message he received 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 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

“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.

In a statement Wednesday night, CNN accused the White House of
retaliating against Acosta because of his questions.

“In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied,” the
network stated. “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 network also tweeted a video of the interaction “for the
world to see.”

Sanders later tweeted a short clip of the interaction, writing:
“We stand by our decision.”

Matt Dornic, CNN’s vice president of communications, responded
by sharing a fuller video clip, writing: “You manipulated this
video. The lies never end.”

Despite video, right-wing personalities continued to spread
online the false allegation that Acosta had been seen “pushing
and shoving a female White House aide.” A HuffPost reporter
noted that the brief video shared by Sanders was made by an
editor from Infowars, the site led by conspiracy theorist Alex
Jones.

Acosta has been one of the most outspoken reporters covering
the White House over the last two years, in which he has become
a favorite target of insults lobbed by Trump’s supporters,
particularly at the president’s raucous rallies.

“I think I’m just covering a story, honestly,” Acosta said in a
2017 interview with The Post about his reporting style. “When
the president of the United States calls the press ‘fake news’
and ‘the enemy of the American people,’ ” he added, “I think
that’s when you have to get tough and ask the hard questions.”

Donald
Trump points to journalist Jim Acosta, centre left, during a
post-election press conference in the East Room of the White
House in Washington, DC on November 7, 2018.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty
Images

After news of Acosta’s press pass suspension broke, numerous
journalists came to his defense. Jeff Mason, the former
president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said
he was seated next to Acosta at the news conference and that
Sanders’s characterization of what happened was false.

“(I) did not witness him ‘placing his hands’ on the young
intern, as the White House alleges,” Mason tweeted. “He held on
to the microphone as she reached for it.”

The Washington Post’s Lindsey Bever contributed to this
report.

In
this file photo CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is
seen before a briefing by White House Press Secretary Sarah
Sanders in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in
Washington, DC on October 3, 2018.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty
Images

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