- The Trump administration is being accused of behaving like an authoritarian regime after revoking CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s credentials.
- The White House also shared an edited video to defend its actions.
- Acosta’s credentials were revoked after a heated exchange with President Donald Trump over his recent comments on a migrant caravan.
The Trump administration was accused of behaving like an authoritarian regime after revoking CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s credentials and sharing an edited video originally posted by a well-known conspiracy theorist to defend its actions.
Acosta, who has a long history of butting heads with the Trump administration, had his credentials revoked after a heated exchange with President Donald Trump at a press conference on Wednesday.
Acosta asked Trump about his comments on a migrant caravan headed toward the US and whether his characterization of the migrants as an “invasion” was hyperbolic.
“You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN,” Trump told CNN’s Jim Acosta during a press conference in which he repeatedly clashed with reporters. pic.twitter.com/OvWCcFap5g
— POLITICO (@politico) November 7, 2018
At one point during the exchange, a White House aide attempted to remove the microphone from Acosta’s hand, but he refused to let go.
The White House claimed Acosta placed his hands on the aide, a young woman, to justify revoking his credentials.
“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. 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,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Sanders stood by the statement on Thursday.
“The question is: did the reporter make contact or not? The video is clear, he did. We stand by our statement,” Sanders told reporters.
‘I never thought I’d see this crap happen in the US’
The White House’s decision to revoke Acosta’s credentials has been decried by the White House press corps and journalist-advocacy groups.
Olivier Knox, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said it was a “weak and misguided action” that should be immediately reversed.
“Journalists may use a range of approaches to carry out their jobs and the WHCA does not police the tone or frequency of the questions its members ask of powerful senior government officials, including the President,” Knox said in a statement. “Such interactions, however uncomfortable they may appear to be, help define the strength of our national institutions.”
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press described the move as “clearly inappropriate” and an “unprecedented” form of punishment, urging the White House to reinstate Acosta’s credential immediately.
It further accused Sanders of falsely describing the exchange, characterising her approach to the incident as “insulting not only to the nation’s journalists, but to its people.”
“The founders of our country knew there would be tension between our leaders and our journalists. In fact, they designed our system that way, knowing that a free and assertive press is the best defence against tyranny,” the group said in a statement.
Some reporters and national security experts accused the White House of behaviour akin to autocratic regimes.
“Fake videos are things we used to ascribe to Russia and other autocracies, not the American White House,” Steven L. Hall, the former CIA chief of Russia operations, tweeted on Thursday.
Similarly, New York Times reporter Melissa Chan tweeted:“As someone who has had my press credentials denied by authoritarian China, I never thought I’d see this crap happen in the US. And this ‘most reporters are ok but @Acosta is aggressive’ thing is the EXACT line Chinese propaganda printed about me. It’s a tactic, people.”
The White House shared a video from a conspiracy theorist to defend its false claims
To bolster the Trump administration’s case, Sanders tweeted a suspicious video of the incident that appeared to show Acosta forcefully pushing the aide’s arm away as she attempted to grab the mic.
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
The video was originally shared by Paul Joseph Watson, an editor-at-large for Infowars.com, a far-right conspiracy outlet. Content from Infowars has been banned from almost every major tech content distributor, including Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube, for violating their policies on hate speech.
The video Watson shared has become a subject of great debate on social media, and many have accused him of deliberately doctoring it.
Watson told BuzzFeed the video was “not edited – it’s just zoomed in,” and claimed the video he posted was derived from a gif shared by The Daily Wire, a right-leaning website.
“Digitally it’s gonna look a tiny bit different after processing and zooming in, but I did not in any way deliberately ‘speed up’ or ‘distort’ the video. That’s just horse s—,” he said.
Acosta does not appear to intentionally push the White House aide in the original news footage, and video shows him stating “pardon me, ma’am” as she attempted to grab the mic.
BREAKING: White House aide grabs and tries to physically remove a microphone from CNN Correspondent Jim Acosta during a contentious exchange with President Trump at a news conference. pic.twitter.com/Ml1OvlXpa9
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 7, 2018
The video Watson and Sanders shared, however, was distorted in a way that seemingly speeds up the clip to make it look as though Acosta forcefully pushed the aide’s arm.
Acosta told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he did not touch the White House aide in any way.
"I do think this is a test for all of us. I do think they are trying to shut us down to some extent," CNN chief White House correspondent Jim @Acosta says, in response to the White House's decision to suspend his hard pass "until further notice." https://t.co/a7R7LIbTQJ pic.twitter.com/VZj8NmzGEf
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) November 8, 2018
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