Although his press pass is now restored, Acosta’s behavior should be a teaching moment.
On Wednesday, Nov. 7, President Trump clashed with CNN’s Jim Acosta during a press conference.
Acosta began by snidely splaining the nature of the migrant caravan to the President, “challenging” him, laying tension from the outset. When he told President Trump the caravan couldn’t possibly be an “invasion” because it was thousands of miles away, Trump skirted, with animosity of his own: “I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN, and if you did it well, your rating would be much better.”
Trump then ordered Acosta to relinquish the microphone, and a White House aide rushed to take it. But he refused, insisting on a second question, which, under standard procedure, he wasn’t owed, like he is his first question. The aide reached twice over and once under his arm to grab it. Acosta held steadfastly, almost blocking her arm with his.
Trump gave way, allowing him to ask half of his second question, before interrupting with somewhat of an answer. Still, he continued to ask, until he relinquished the microphone to the aide, allowing the press conference to continue. Trump then slammed Acosta, calling him, “a rude, terrible person,” and contending he treats people horribly.
Then, halfway through NBC reporter Peter Alexander’s question, Acosta arose with new questions, demonstrating his complete dearth of respect for the conference’s conventions. He rather anarchy, so long as he can ask whatever he wants, whenever he wants, without showing a modicum of respect to the President, the aide or his fellow reporters. He was like a child who gets in trouble, then spitefully lashes out at his parents, doubling down, to project his rejection of their authority.
In short, Acosta arrogantly obstructed the conference, preventing other reporters from asking questions, in blatant disregard for protocol and common decency, degrading the ceremony, aggressively defying the President and White House aide, to broadcast his disrespect. He was a greater threat to the press and to civility than was Trump’s response.
So when the White House later revoked Acosta’s press credentials, it was more than justified—it protected future conferences’ orderliness, reminded brazen reporters they aren’t above common courtesy and admonished holier-than-thou Acosta.
But the media disagrees. “The New York Times,” in an editorial, and CNN, in its immediate response, considered Acosta’s aggressive challenges the press’s fundamental role. That may be true. But Acosta wasn’t suspended because of his questions’ contents; Trump didn’t “[signal] that in his view, asking hard questions disqualifies journalists. And he didn’t “rant” against him “for the questions [he was] attempting to ask,” as CNN claims. His credentials were revoked because he refused to hand over the microphone.
Anything else is a lie, including press secretary Sarah Sanders’ claim that Acosta was ousted because he laid “his hands on a young woman.” Not only was this not the rationale for his suspension, it hardly even occurred. The aide initiated contact; he grazed her. Instead of fabricating a gendered, culturally apropos narrative and releasing allegedly doctored footage of their encounter, the White House should have stuck to its guns and highlighted Acosta’s boorishness.
Sanders was right, however, when she later wrote that “he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions.” She added that “The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional.”
CNN’s claim that reporters “pissed off” Obama like they “pissed off” Trump is false: the media were much softer on Obama then they are on Trump. They’ve now effectively declared themselves a collective anti-Trump force, of the resistance. While calling them, “the enemy of the people,” even when they “report fake news,” is an attack on the press, only stooped in ignorance can they stand aghast at that epithet; do they not recognize their own weaponization? Thereby, they’ve undermined themselves and their credibility.
In any case, Acosta’s willfulness wasn’t standard reporter aggression, nor was it “asking hard questions;” it was a direct violation of etiquette and decency, possibly a shameless attempt to antagonize the President for no productive reason. Acosta wasn’t “continu[ing] to do [his job],” while the President “[went] low.” The media are so consumed discrediting Trump that they don’t realize Acosta, not Trump, interrupted the press.
Trump shouldn’t have responded to Acosta’s initial inquiry with a hostile fake answer. But once he did, Acosta had no right of acting the way he did. Neither Trump’s rebuke of Acosta nor his rescindment of Acosta’s press credentials was an attack on the press. They reacted to his refusal to relinquish the microphone, not the contents of his questions. Acosta’s misbehavior was unprecedented. Now CNN is suing the President baselessly.
Levi Langer is a sophomore at Torah Academy of Bergen County. He is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.
Please note that the opinions in this piece are presented solely by the author, and neither The New York Jewish Week nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.