Reporters are supposed to fire questions. Some questions are going to be — and should be — difficult.
But CNN’s Jim Acosta was hurling grenades Wednesday.
The cable network’s chief White House correspondent had his White House press credentials taken away “until further notice” after yet another tense exchange of words with President Trump.
The called press conference initially was Trump’s assessment of the outcome of the midterm elections. But in a roomful of reporters who were trying to do their jobs, it looked like Acosta was trying to bend the press conference’s center of gravity toward himself.
If only Acosta just asked meaningful questions to prompt meaningful answers. Instead he decided to launch into a televised debate with the president on whether the immigrant caravan approaching the U.S. border with Mexico is an “invasion,” as Trump has described it, or “a group of migrants moving up from Central America” who are “hundreds and hundreds” of miles away, as Acosta was pestering the president to agree to.
At that point Acosta wasn’t a reporter asking questions. He was an activist debating policy and trying to change the president’s mind.
“Most of the people there were serious reporters asking serious questions, but Jim Acosta, I thought, embarrassed himself today,” Fox News Sunday anchorman Chris Wallace said after the briefing.
Let’s cast aside the officially stated reason for pulling Acosta’s White House credentials — that he laid his hand on a White House intern trying to pull the microphone away. Video shows physical contact. Viewers still are debating whether the contact actually was combative or just a byproduct of Acosta’s gesturing.
Let’s instead talk about Acosta repeatedly interrupting Trump during a January 2017 press conference more than a week before his inauguration.
Let’s talk about last June, when Acosta interrupted a historic signing ceremony with North Korea with his questions. Let’s talk about he shouted at those two leaders about nuclear weapons. When he didn’t get an answer, a hot microphone seemed to pick up a flustered Acosta saying, “”Hey if they’re not going to let me in the (expletive) meeting, that’s what happens … That’s the way it goes, baby.”
Acosta doesn’t appear to react well when his efforts at playing to the crowd get squelched. During an August 2017 White House press briefing with Sean Spicer, cameras were turned off — likely to discourage attention-hogging reporters. “Some days we’ll have them, some days we won’t,” Spicer said simply. But you can hear audio in which Acosta clearly was fuming.
Let’s talk about Acosta’s uneven reporting. When celebrity Kim Kardashian met with Trump last May to discuss prison reform, Acosta grumped, “She shouldn’t be here talking about prison reform. It’s very nice that she is here but that’s not a serious thing to have happened here at the White House.”
But Mediaite’s Joseph A. Wulfsohn points out that Acosta sure took celebrity John Legend seriously in 2015 in an interview that covered, among other issues, prison reform — an issue Legend was going to discuss with President Obama.
Trump doesn’t have to like reporters. Reporters certainly aren’t obligated to like Trump. But when straightforward reporting morphs into insufferable activism, as it does repeatedly with Jim Acosta, don’t fault the White House for putting its foot down.
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