The White House is revoking the credential pass of CNN reporter Jim Acosta hours after a fiery exchange at a press conference.
Acosta has long been a bitter adversary of the White House. The Hispanic American reporter works for the rolling news channel that has been a particular focus of ire for the administration. CNN has been the network most closely associated with the “fake news” slur, which the president has used consistently to undermine public confidence in the media.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Acosta was trying to challenge Trump over the president’s scare-mongering about the so-called “caravan” of migrants making their way through Mexico.
When Trump tried to brush him off, Acosta refused to surrender a microphone provided by the White House, while trying to ask Trump another question. A female staffer tried to take it from him and Acosta held on. Trump went on to call the reporter “a rude, terrible person”.
Hours later, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a statement: “President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. 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 … As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.”
In a statement, CNN defended its reporter. “The White House announced tonight that it has revoked the press pass of CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta,” said the company in a statement. “It was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference. In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. 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 move will be seen as clear interference with the way White House Correspondents’ Association members cover the administration. Only journalists who have been accredited with a “hard pass” can enter White House grounds swiftly through security.
Acosta would theoretically be able to apply for a day pass to continue doing his job, but the process is slow and impractical for any journalist who needs to move freely in and out of the White House.
Appearing on CNN Tuesday night, Acosta said he had first become aware of a problem when security stopped him from entering the White House grounds. It was “a pretty surreal experience” being barred from doing his job because he tried to ask a question of the president, he said.
The White House Correspondents’ Association issued a statement condemning what it called 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”.
Calling on the White House to reverse this “weak and misguided action”, it added: “Revoking access to the White House complex is a reaction out of line to the purported offense and is unacceptable.
“We encourage anyone with doubts that this reaction was disproportionate to the perceived offense to view the video of the events from earlier today.”