Jim Acosta, a self-aggrandizing pest who seems to actually believe any White House presser is nothing more than his own personal TV show, got his “hard pass” revoked this past week after an incident in which he refused to give up the mic and physically stopped a female intern who tried to take it from him.
In any normal universe, this story wouldn’t have registered. Of course he should have lost the hard pass, a document that allows him unprecedented access to the White House. That’s appalling behavior, and it’s not like it’s the first time he’s engaged in it.
However, the president is Donald Trump and the network Jim Acosta works for is CNN, so bring on the outrage and the witless comparisons to 1930s Continental fascism.
At least The New York Times didn’t go with the fascist thing, but they did issue a facepalm-worthy defense of the well-coiffed martyr of CNN.
“Mr. Trump has amply demonstrated his inability to deal with criticism or tough questions in any way other than to immediately, angrily and crudely counterattack,” The Times’ editorial board said Thursday. “Mr. Acosta has regularly provoked the president to fury, and he did so again on Wednesday with questions about the Central American migrant ‘caravan’ and the Russia investigation.
“Anger is one thing, but in suspending Mr. Acosta’s press credential, Mr. Trump signaled that in his view, asking hard questions — the most basic function of a reporter — disqualifies journalists from attending White House briefings. That Mr. Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, would then use the demonstrably false claim that Mr. Acosta had laid ‘his hands on a young woman’ as a pretext to throw him out compounds the cynicism.”
Well, except he did actually do that part about laying hands on a young woman. You can question the alteration of the speed of the video, which seems rather ridiculous, but The Times appears to be relying on the old Richard Pryor line: “Who are you going to believe — me, or your lying eyes?”
Surprisingly, there was one journalistic organization that condemned Acosta’s behavior. And no, we’re not talking conservative media here. The Poynter Institute — a nonprofit school in Florida that also frequently opines on issues regarding freedom of the press — didn’t exactly think what happened at the White House on Wednesday was journalism at its finest.
The Poynter Institute, mind you, is a nonpartisan institute that more frequently criticizes Trump than his critics. However, in an article titled “CNN’s Jim Acosta’s actions to Trump don’t represent the best of journalism,” Al Tompkins and Kelly McBride argue that while they were not offering a “defense of Trump’s suspension of Acosta’s White House press credentials,” they condemned Acosta’s behavior at the presser.
“If you look closely at the video, when Acosta was asking questions, his exchange with the president was on track and normal. Acosta asked, ‘Do you think that you demonize immigrants?’ To which the president answered, ‘No,'” they wrote.
“A better question might have been, ‘How do you respond to the criticism that you are demonizing certain types of immigrants, namely poor immigrants?’
“But then Acosta’s questions ended and his statements began. ‘Your campaign had an ad showing migrants climbing over walls,’ he said. And then, ‘They are hundreds of miles away, that’s not an invasion.’ The heated exchange grew from there.
“Press conferences can be high stakes because they are frequently an attempt to control the message. Reporters who prepare with neutral questions avoid revealing bias or creating unnecessary conflict.
“Things got uncomfortable when Acosta refused to turn over the microphone to an intern who reached out to remove it from him, and then stood up to continue his banter without the microphone.
“This was a White House event and he was talking to the president of the United States. A briefing is not the same as a cable news wrestling match, where sides shout at each other. Acosta should have handed over the microphone.”
The article also said that the “accusation that Acosta manhandled the intern trying to retrieve the microphone is nonsense,” which seems to be the party line everywhere.
I may disagree with a lot in this article, and I’m sure that’s the point. I’m writing a partisan commentary piece; while what the Poynter Institute is writing certainly counts as commentary, it’s aiming to be nonpartisan. It’s pointing out a simple fact — Jim Acosta had hijacked the microphone and was using it for a soliloquy, not a question. Furthermore, he’d already used up his “questions” and was now being forcibly relieved of the microphone because he wasn’t going to let it go any other way.
Whether or not he “manhandled” the intern is a matter of debate (I personally think it takes willful blindness to say he didn’t, but I don’t write for the Poynter Institute). However, the point is clear: Let’s please stop hailing Acosta as a hero.
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