An indecorous encounter between president and reporter continues to rattle the journalism community, a troubled place to begin with. President Trump and CNN reporter Jim Acosta sparred on camera during a White House press conference, followed by charge that Mr. Acosta later became physical with a White House intern — a charge he denies. The action was over in moments — but it was enough to spark caustic reactions, soul-searching, complaints and cautions for hours on end.
Mr. Acosta lost his White House credentials, and Mr. Trump went on with the business at hand. But it’s complicated.
“We want journalists to ask questions and seek truth. But Jim Acosta’s encounter Wednesday at a White House press conference was less about asking questions and more about making statements. In doing so, the CNN White House reporter gave President Trump room to critique Acosta’s professionalism,” say Al Tomkins and Kelly McBride, both media ethics scholars at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based think tank and journalism resource.
“In this time of difficult relations between the press and the White House, reporters who operate above reproach, while still challenging the power of the office, will build credibility. This is in no way a defense of Trump’s suspension of Acosta’s White House press credentials. Rather, it’s a caution to not hand your critic the stick to beat you with,” they advise.
Veteran Fox News Channel anchorman Chris Wallace declared that Mr. Acosta had “embarrassed himself.”
An instant political and cultural moment had been born. The White House Correspondents’ Association condemned Mr. Acosta’s loss of credentials. So did the Society of Professional Journalists.
“Politicians denying access to reporters as a way to control who covers them is a violation of the First Amendment,” the organization said — though its official code of ethics also advises that “Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.”
Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog, launched a public petition demanding that journalists “stand in solidarity against Trump’s blacklist.” Within hours, close to 700,000 people had signed on to the pleas, which urged the press to “close ranks and stand up for journalism.”
The White House, meanwhile, also stood by its charge that Mr. Acosta had touched the intern in question; video footage of the event was subject to much interpretation.
“It’s important to show that Jim Acosta did place his hands on this White House staffer. She’s young, she was shaken up, she was intimidated by what Jim Acosta did. What we are seeing is bad behavior that cannot be tolerated,” White House senior communication adviser Mercedes Schlapp told Fox Business Network.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
There’s a wagering opportunity inspired by the Acosta matter.
“Will Jim Acosta get his White House press pass back before 2019?” asks Bovada, an online betting concern which covers sports, horse racing, poker and other casino games.
Their initial odds for Mr. Acosta favored not getting his credentials back: The “Yes” odds were +150 (3/2) and the odds for “no,” that the press pass will not be returned, started at -200 (1/2).
But things change.
“As of now, the money is being heavily on ‘Yes’ for Acosta to have his credentials reinstated,” Bovada head oddsmaker Pat Morrow tells Inside the Beltway.
His group had also posted odds on the midterm election and the selection of a new U.S. attorney general this week.
“While wagers like these usually don’t garner the same kind of heavy wagering as traditional sports betting, the U.S. midterms stood side by side with the NBA, NHL and college football on Tuesday. The early betting handle on the Acosta line, and the new Attorney General is a bit lighter as, admittedly, there’s much more uncertainty in these kind of betting markets,” Mr. Morrow says.
FOR THE LEXICON
Among the activist groups participating: the Women’s March, Pantsuit Nation, Sierra Club, Green Peace, Daily Kos, People for the American Way plus NextGen America and Need to Impeach — those last two both founded by billionaire activist Tom Steyer.
TRUMP HAS THE FARM VOTE
Farmers and ranchers “overwhelmingly” approve of the job President Trump is doing, according to a poll of 600 commercial farmers and ranchers around the nation, conducted by Agri-Pulse, a policy and news group based in the nation’s capital.
The survey found that 79 percent of the farmers approve of the president. But there is a partisan divide even among this demographic. The findings also revealed that 92 percent of the “GOP farmers” give a thumbs up to the president, compared to 33 percent of farmers who are Democrats, and 65 percent of those who are independents.
“President Trump mentions his support for farmers and his work on trade at just about every rural campaign rally — even as economic conditions on the farm are difficult for many,” says Agri-Pulse editor Sara Wyant. “According to our research, farmers are still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and appear optimistic that his trade and regulatory policies will pay off in the long run.”
WEEKEND REAL ESTATE
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POLL DU JOUR
•41 percent of U.S. voters say the House of Representatives should not begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump; 74 percent of Republicans, 44 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats agree.
•47 percent of men and 36 percent of women also agree.
•40 percent overall say impeachment proceedings should begin; 14 percent of Republicans, 36 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats agree.
•36 percent of men and 43 percent of women also agree.
•19 percent overall are unsure: 12 percent of Republicans, 19 percent of independents and 23 percent of Democrats agree.
•17 percent of men and 21 percent of women also agree.
Source: A HILLTV/HARRISX American Barometer poll of 1,000 registered U.S. voters conducted Nov. 2-3