Few reporters have had a tougher time during the Trump Administration than CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. At this time last year, White House aide Stephen Miller attacked him for pushing back against the White House's immigration policy at a press briefing. Last month, the President blew off all of his questions during his press conference in the UK. Last Tuesday, he was heckled by the President's supporters at his Tampa rally, who lived up to Hillary Clinton's "deplorable" moniker:
Despite all the free airtime the media gave Trump when he ran for President, since taking office, he and his cronies have ratcheted up their attacks on the fourth estate from day one. His cult of personality has become so strong that according to a CBS News Poll released this week, 91% of his supporters trust him to provide accurate information - more than their family, friends, or the media. So at yesterday's press briefing, it fell on Acosta to challenge Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to walk back the President's belief that the media is "the enemy of the people," which he tweeted earlier that day.
Prior to Acosta's question, Sanders had been asked by another reporter if she agreed with the president's remarks, and she rambled awkwardly for about a minute in disagreement. After this, Acosta picked up what the previous reporter had said, reminding her that she had not answered whether or not she agreed with the president. "I think it would be a good thing if you were to state right here at this briefing that the press, the people who are gathered in this room right now, doing their jobs every day, asking questions of officials like the ones you brought forward earlier are not the enemy of the people," he said. "I think we deserve that.” Once again, Sanders dug her heels in and spat venom at the media:
“It’s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attack the president for his rhetoric when they frequently lowered the level of conversation in this country...Repeatedly, repeatedly the media restarts personal attacks without any content other to incite anger. The media has attacked me repeatedly, said I should be harassed as a life sentence. ICE officials are not welcomed in their place of worship. When I was hosted by the correspondents’ association you brought up a comedian to attack me...The media continues to ratchet up the verbal assault against the president and everyone in this administration and certainly we have a role to play but the media has to role to play for the discourse in this country as well,”
As the Washington Postpointed out, it's hard to believe Sanders didn't go over this comeback with Trump before saying it, since she was looking at her notes the whole time. Her remarks added nothing and satisfied no one, so Acosta dug in further:
“You did not say in the course of your remarks you just made that the press is not the enemy of the people...For the sake of this room, the people who are in this room, this democracy, this country, all the people around the world who are watching, what are you saying, Sarah, and the White House for the United States of America, the President of the United States should not refer to us as the enemy of the American people. His own daughter acknowledged that and all I’m asking you to do, Sarah, is to acknowledge that right now and right here.”
For the third time that afternoon, she refused to comply. "I appreciate your passion," she told Acosta, before adding, "I'm here on behalf of the President. He's made his comments clear." Acosta walked out of the briefing room before the session ended.
The right, led primarily by Sean Hannity, has spent the last day attacking Acosta for being a "snowflake". But in their rush to "own the libs," they ignore the ways their actions are frowned upon. At the same time Sanders admonished Acosta, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights released a devastating statement against the Trump Administration for their attacks on journalists, which they said are "designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts." It continues:
“Each time the President calls the media ‘the enemy of the people,' he suggests nefarious motivations or animus. But he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations...we urge President Trump not only to stop using his platform to denigrate the media but to condemn these attacks, including threats directed at the press at his own rallies."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUGdFSYrwrE This will not dissuade Trump's fans from dunking on Acosta, who they hate for his Latino heritage and his association with CNN, which they despise above all other news networks. In refusing to answer his question yesterday, the White House signified that it does not believe in free speech for journalists who challenge the President. This is not behavior you would expect in a democracy, it is something you would see from a dictatorship. And our responsibility is to call it out before it is normalized.