Sarah Sanders Rips Reporter's 'Tone' in Press Briefing, Calls it 'Completely Unnecessary"


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A White House press briefing Wednesday included a heated exchange between White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and CNN’s Jim Acosta.

As the Washington Examiner reported, a series of questions led Acosta to take issue with President Donald Trump’s relationship with the news media.

The terse exchange ended with a rebuke by Sanders, who called the reporter’s tone “completely unnecessary” and “unneeded.”

Acosta began by asking Sanders about Trump’s recent comments concerning Ronny Johnson, his embattled pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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“Yesterday, the president suggested that Dr. Jackson does not have the experience to run the Department of Veterans Affairs,” he said. “Is that a fair assessment that he lacks that experience?”

Sanders chided him for taking Trump’s words out of context, asserting that the president merely mentioned Johnson’s executive inexperience because it “had been one of the questions that people had posed about” the presidential physician.

“If he didn’t think he had the experience, he wouldn’t have nominated him,” Sanders said.

Was the tone of Jim Acosta's question inappropriate?

After Sanders cited Johnson’s professional history in describing him as “a highly qualified, highly skilled individual” fit for the influential post, Acosta asked a follow-up question based on her earlier criticism.

He described Sanders’ warning about out-of-context reporting as a “press-related” issue, prompting him to clarify the Trump administration’s position on the profession.

“Are you trying to say that this administration is a champion of a free press?” Acosta asked.

Sanders replied that the White House supports “a free press” but also expects “a fair press,” insisting that those qualities “should go hand in hand.”

When she mentioned the need for “a certain responsibility by the press to provide accurate information,” Acosta again tried to interject.

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Sanders cut him off to finish her thought, acknowledging that “a number of people in this room” perform their jobs admirably.

“I certainly support that and that’s one of the reasons I’m standing here taking your questions,” she said.

She then took aim at those reporters she believes express hostility toward the administration.

Sanders said that “a lot of times” she fields questions asked “in a tone that is completely unnecessary, unneeded and frankly doesn’t help further the conversation or help the American people get any more information in a better way.”

That is the job of both the White House press secretary and the news media, she added.

Acosta was ready with a retort, though Sanders did not provide a reply.

“The president’s tone toward the press is not helpful, and I think that’s plain to see,” he said.

“Jim, I’m finished,” Sanders said before moving on to another question.

Acosta has frequently criticized the Trump administration, specifically for its attacks on the media.

Earlier this week, he received backlash after making a comment some interpreted as a slam on the mental faculties of Trump voters, though he later clarified that he was referring only to those who would make threats against journalists.

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Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a wide range of newsrooms.
Chris Agee is an American journalist with more than 15 years of experience in a variety of newsroom settings. After covering crime and other beats for newspapers and radio stations across the U.S., he served as managing editor at Western Journalism until 2017. He has also been a regular guest and guest host on several syndicated radio programs. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife and son.
Texas Press Association, Best News Writing - 2012
Bachelor of Arts, Journalism - Averett University
Professional Memberships
Online News Association
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment