The White House has gone full blast in revoking the press credentials of CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta. The action followed an incident in which Acosta tangled with President Donald K. Trump and his spokesman at the post-Midterms Election press conference.
The incident marks a new low in the tortured relations between the mainline media and Trump and his Administration.
Acosta had challenged the Administration’s line – and he used that word – in a question to the spokesman at the White House briefing. But he continued to argue after the initial response of the Trump spokesman. That turned into a fiery argument – it could hardly be called anything else – with the chair and Acosta refusing to surrender the microphone to a young intern for his fellow questioners’ turn on the floor.
Whatever else the incident reveals is the bitterness which most of the media feel toward Trump and his administration, something that often appears to go beyond the limits of traditional political debate.
The “hard pass” that is in question is the official continuing permission which speeds up entry of newsmen and others to the White House. It was suspended for Acosta, CNN’s Chief Washington correspondent, by the Trump administration “until further notice.”
Of course, reporters from many news organizations have expressed support for Acosta. It remains to be seen whether White House reporters will walk out or show solidarity with Acosta and CNN in other ways, as a riposte to White House action.
“This is a test for all of us,” Acosta said. “I do think they are trying to shut us down, to some extent, inside the White House press corps.” Acosta said he thought the suspension was also an attempt to “send a message to our colleagues.”
The argument is also a demonstration of the increasingly difficult problem of technology being used to prove or disprove arguments. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday night had shared a CNN video of Acosta swiftly chopping down on the arm of an aide as he persistently held onto a microphone while questioning Trump. But in the original video, Acosta’s arm appears to move only as a response to a tussle for the microphone. His statement, “Pardon me, ma’am,” is not included.
Critics said that the video — which sped up the movement of Acosta’s arms in a way that dramatically changed the appearance of the journalist’s response — was deceptively edited. That edited video was first shared by Paul Joseph Watson, known for his conspiracy-theory videos at the website Infowars. Watson said he did not change the video’s speed and that claims he had altered it were a “brazen lie.” He told BuzzFeed he created the video by downloading an animated image from conservative news site Daily Wire — a conversion he says could have made it “look a tiny bit different.”
It’s no secret that – except for Fox – the mainline media are lined up solidly against Trump and his Administration. While it certainly does not set new precedents in the long history of opposition of the press to the contemporary presidential administration, the virulence of the current impasse is on a new order.
As has noted, White House suspensions of Acosta’s press pass “until further notice” and denying him access to the White House grounds has made him a martyr, suffering a penalty no one recalls seeing before.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders made it even worse when she accused him of manhandling the intern who tried to take the mic away, and tweeted out a video that seemed to show just that. But the video she shared turned out to be slowed down, zoomed in and misleading. In reality, any contact was glancing, and the charge is ridiculous.