The White House suspended the media credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta on Wednesday night, citing his “absolutely unacceptable” conduct for tussling with a White House intern at a presidential press conference earlier in the day.
Mr. Acosta learned of the move when a Secret Service officer confiscated his White House credentials, known as a “hard pass,” as he tried to re-enter a security gate at the White House.
The US Secret Service just asked for my credential to enter the WH. As I told the officer, I don’t blame him. I know he’s just doing his job. (Sorry this video is not rightside up) pic.twitter.com/juQeuj3B9R
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 8, 2018
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president believes in a free press and welcomes tough questions, but will “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”
“This conduct is absolutely unacceptable,” she said.
During a contentious press conference in the East Room earlier Wednesday, Mr. Acosta was questioning the president’s characterization of a migrant caravan from Central America as an “invasion.” The reporter, often a target of Mr. Trump’s barbs of “fake news,” offered his own opinion that it wasn’t an invasion.
Mr. Trump retorted, “I think you should — honestly, I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN .. and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.”
When Mr. Acosta tried to ask another question, Mr. Trump cut him off, saying “That’s enough.”
Taking her cue from the president, an intern tried to take a cordless microphone away from Mr. Acosta so it could be used by the next reporter on whom the president would call, Peter Alexander of NBC News.
But Mr. Acosta wouldn’t immediately hand over the microphone, and appeared to raise his left arm to prevent the woman from taking it away.
During the exchange, the president also told Mr. Acosta, “You are a rude, terrible person, you shouldn’t be working for CNN.”
Referring to Mrs. Sanders’ accusation that he had placed his hands on the intern, Mr. Acosta tweeted, “This is a lie.”
Mrs. Sanders said Mr. Acosta’s behavior was “also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question.”
“President Trump has given the press more access than any president in history,” she said. “Contrary to CNN’s assertions, there is no greater demonstration of the president’s support for a free press than the event he held today. Only they would attack the president for not being supportive of a free press in the midst of him taking 68 questions from 35 different reporters over the course of an hour and a half – including several from the reporter in question.”
CNN defended Mr. Acosta, a fact that Mrs. Sanders called “not only disgusting, it is an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this administration.”
“As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice,” she said.
As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
Suspending a journalist’s credentials is extremely rare. The action will prevent Mr. Acosta from entering the White House grounds to report on the president’s activities or to interview White House aides in person.