When it comes to showboating Washington correspondents, CNN’s Jim Acosta might be getting some competition.
At a news conference Monday morning for the unveiling of new Trump administration rules cracking down on immigration that ends up being a drain on the nation’s taxpayers, one member of the Washington press corps asked a question that pulled the media’s already dismal reputation even lower.
But the answer was almost perfect.
The moment came when Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, was fielding questions about new regulations designed to put a premium on immigrants who are financially able to support themselves when they come to the United States.
(It’s not exactly a new, radical idea. According to a CBS News item published Monday, it was part of the country’s immigration laws from the late 19th century through the late 20th century.)
One of the reporters in attendance decided to go all weepy with a question, demanding to know whether it was time to take down the famed Emma Lazarus poem from the Statue of Liberty — the one many children at least partially learn in grade school: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Check it out the exchange here:
“Is that sentiment, give us ‘your tired, your poor,’ still operative in the United States, or…should the plaque come down from the Statue of Liberty?”
— ABC News (@ABC) August 12, 2019
The question is as insulting as it is absurd, and was almost certainly designed to bait Cuccinelli into a response that would make a soundbite President Donald Trump’s opponents could use as ammunition.
But the acting director treated it with a gravity — and professionalism — that showed just how off-base it was.
“I’m certainly not prepared to take anything down off the Statue of Liberty,” he said.
“We have a long history of being one of the most welcoming nations in the world on a lot of bases, whether you be an asylee, whether you be coming here to join your family or yourself. I do not think by any means we are ready to take anything off the Statue of Liberty.”
Twitter users weren’t as gracious.
— Founding Ideals (@founding_ideals) August 12, 2019
These are activists, not journalists. https://t.co/QM1Ko8TwBR
— Dustin Templeton (@dtempleton_smb) August 12, 2019
And then there were a few tweets that pointed out the obvious – that there’s a world of difference between inspirational words and the workaday legislation that makes orderly life in a great republic possible.
Poems are not laws. #Truth
— Dave’s Spirit (@dave_spirit2001) August 12, 2019
A poem on a statue has the force of law https://t.co/LsYovMIQiX
— [shrug emoji] (@jtLOL) August 12, 2019
Does Robert Frost’s Mending Wall also carry the weight of Federal law?
— Adeptus Archer (@ArcherMint) August 12, 2019
The worst part of the ridiculous question might have been its source.
A listener hearing it for the first time might have assumed it came from one of the most liberal news outlets allowed in the White House, like CNN’s Acosta, for instance (he played the Emma Lazarus card during a confrontation with White House adviser Stephen Miller back in 2017).
But according to the Washington Examiner, the questioner was Steven Portnoy, a CBS Radio correspondent and president-elect of the White House Correspondents Association.
So, not only is an administration official rolling out an important change in American immigration law greeted with a baiting, insulting question seemingly designed to benefit Democrats, the man who asked the question is actually elected head of the media group that covers the presidency itself.
If the members of the media ever really wonder why so much of the public considers them purveyors of “fake news,” they could start by watching this video, and trying to figure out what’s wrong with it.
It’s a fair bet, too many of them don’t already know.
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