The White House on Wednesday suspended the press pass of a CNN reporter who sparred with Donald Trump at a news conference, during which the president branded him the “enemy of the people.”
A visibly angry Trump called reporter Jim Acosta a “rude, terrible person,” after the CNN White House correspondent refused the president’s orders to sit down and yield the microphone during the conference one day after the US midterm election.
“The White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders hours later, referring to Acosta, who then tweeted that he had been denied White House entry.
The heated exchange began after Acosta clung to the microphone and persisted with questions about the president’s repeated and angry denunciation of a caravan of poor Central American migrants making their way through Mexico to the US border. He asked Trump why he has characterized it as an invasion.
Trump said “that’s enough!” and a White House intern tried in vain to take the microphone from the CNN journalist.
“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration,” Sanders said in her statement.
“We will, however, 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.
Acosta shot back at the accusation of misconduct, tweeting “this is a lie” — as his network and a number of Washington journalists who had been at the press conference voiced support for him and denied the White House allegations that he touched the intern.
“Secretary Sanders lied,” CNN said in a statement, saying the press pass suspension was “done in retaliation for challenging questions.”
Sanders “provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened,” the US cable network said.
“This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support.”