Jim Acosta walked out of a stormy White House briefing after press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not contradict Donald Trump by saying that that the “press are not the enemy of the people.”
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CNN’s Acosta began his line of questioning by saying that the journalists “deserved” a reassurance that their work was valued by the President, and it would be a “good thing” if she would refute a label Trump first gave the press in January 2017, and never backed down from.
But Sanders would not swallow the bait, stating that Trump has “made his position clear,” but before she could get any further, Acosta began to ask another follow-up.
Sanders exploded, accusing the CNN correspondent of interrupting, and butting in to ask his question in the first place.
She then went on the offensive, accusing the press of “lowering the level of conversation in this country,” making “inciting anger” and “making personal attacks.” She then reminded Acosta that she is the first White House press secretary to require security protection, and brought up the press decision to use a comedian during the annual White House correspondents’ dinner, Michelle Wolff, who dedicated a significant part of her set to jabbing at Sanders.
“The media continues to ratchet up the verbal assault against the president and everyone in this administration. Certainly, we have a role to play, but the media has a role to play for the discourse in this country as well,” said Sanders.
Having tried to interject several times during Sanders’ answer, at least some of which she appears to have made notes for in advance, Acosta insisted again that Sanders refute the enemy line, which she refused.
While the 90-minute briefing was less than ten minutes away from wrapping up anyway, Acosta later tweeted that he walked “saddened” by a “shameful” performance.
I walked out of the end of that briefing because I am totally saddened by what just happened. Sarah Sanders was repeatedly given a chance to say the press is not the enemy and she wouldn't do it. Shameful.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) 2 August 2018
The old quote came to the fore again after Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the president, said earlier on Thursday that the press was “not the enemy,” as well as insisting she was against controversial family separations for illegal migrants.
There is little doubt that the line, when originally uttered, was primarily reserved for Acosta’s employer (along with the “failing” New York Times) and the political correspondent has done well to focus much of the anger on himself recently, including at a Trump rally in Florida, where he performed a piece-to-camera in front of a crowd of MAGA supporters baying for his blood.