New low for press free­dom

White House bans re­porter ac­cus­ing him of ac­cost­ing in­tern af­ter con­fronta­tion with Trump

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

THE WHITE House has sus­pended the press pass of CNN cor­re­spon­dent Jim Acosta af­ter he and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had a heated con­fronta­tion dur­ing a news con­fer­ence.

They be­gan spar­ring on Wed­nes­day af­ter Acosta asked Trump about the car­a­van of mi­grants head­ing from Latin Amer­ica to the south­ern US bor­der. When Acosta tried to fol­low up with an­other ques­tion, Trump said: “That’s enough!” and a fe­male White House aide un­suc­cess­fully tried to grab the mi­cro­phone from Acosta.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders re­leased a state­ment ac­cus­ing Acosta of “plac­ing his hands on a young woman just try­ing to do her job as a White House in­tern”, call­ing it “ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able”.

The in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Acosta and the in­tern was brief, and Acosta ap­peared to brush her arm as she reached for the mi­cro­phone and he tried to hold on to it. “Par­don me, ma’am,” he told her.

Acosta tweeted that San­ders’s state­ment that he had put his hands on the aide was “a lie”.

CNN said in a state­ment that the White House had re­voked Acosta’s press pass out of “re­tal­i­a­tion for his chal­leng­ing ques­tions” on Wed­nes­day, and the net­work ac­cused San­ders of ly­ing about Acosta’s ac­tions.

“(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,” CNN said. “Jim Acosta has our full sup­port.”

Jour­nal­ists as­signed to cover the White House ap­ply for passes that al­low them daily ac­cess to press ar­eas in the West Wing.

White House staffers de­cide whether jour­nal­ists are el­i­gi­ble, though the Se­cret Ser­vice de­ter­mines whether their ap­pli­ca­tions are ap­proved.

The post-midterm elec­tion news con­fer­ence marked a new low in the pres­i­dent’s re­la­tion­ship with jour­nal­ists.

“It’s such a hos­tile me­dia,” Trump said af­ter order­ing re­porter April Ryan, of the Amer­i­can Ur­ban Ra­dio Net­works, to sit down when she tried to ask him a ques­tion.

The pres­i­dent com­plained that the me­dia did not cover the hum­ming econ­omy and was re­spon­si­ble for much of the coun­try’s di­vided pol­i­tics. He said: “I can do some­thing fan­tas­tic, and they make it look not good.”

His ex­changes with CNN’s Acosta and NBC News’s Peter Alexan­der turned bit­terly per­sonal, un­usual even for a fo­rum where the na­ture of their jobs of­ten put pres­i­dents and the press at odds.

“I came in here as a nice per­son want­ing to an­swer ques­tions and I had peo­ple jump­ing out of their seats scream­ing ques­tions at me,” said Trump, who talked for nearly 90 min­utes de­spite the run-ins with re­porters.

Acosta asked Trump why the car­a­van of mi­grants was em­pha­sised as an is­sue in the just-con­cluded midterm races and he ques­tioned Trump’s ref­er­ence to the car­a­van as an in­va­sion.

“You should let me run the coun­try,” Trump said. “You run CNN and if you did it well, your rat­ings would be much bet­ter.”

Af­ter Acosta asked about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sia’s in­volve­ment in the 2016 elec­tion, Trump tried to turn to Alexan­der, but Acosta con­tin­ued to ask ques­tions.

“CNN should be ashamed of it­self hav­ing you work for them,” the pres­i­dent said to Acosta. “You are a rude, ter­ri­ble per­son. You shouldn’t be work­ing for CNN. The way you treat Sarah San­ders is hor­ri­ble. The way you treat other peo­ple is hor­ri­ble. You shouldn’t treat peo­ple that way.”

Alexan­der came to his col­league’s de­fence. “I’ve trav­elled with him and watched him,” Alexan­der said. “He’s a dili­gent re­porter who busts his butt like the rest of us.”

“I’m not a big fan of yours, ei­ther,” Trump replied.

“I un­der­stand,” Alexan­der said, at­tempt­ing to ask a ques­tion. Acosta stood back up and noted the ex­plo­sive de­vices that were re­cently sent to CNN and some of the pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.

“Just sit down,” Trump said. “When you re­port fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the peo­ple.”

CNN said Trump’s at­tacks on the press had gone too far.

“They are not only dan­ger­ous, they are dis­turbingly un-Amer­i­can,” CNN tweeted af­ter the ex­change. “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.”

In an­nounc­ing Acosta’s sus­pen­sion, San­ders said: “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 work in this ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

The White House Correspondents’ As­so­ci­a­tion said it “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”.

The as­so­ci­a­tion called on the White House to “im­me­di­ately re­verse this weak and mis­guided ac­tion”. | AP African News Agency (ANA)

REUTERS ANA

A White House staff mem­ber reaches for the mi­cro­phone held by CNN’s Jim Acosta as he ques­tions USPres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing a news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day, in a com­bi­na­tion of pho­tos at the White House in Wash­ing­ton. |

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