BOSTON (CBS) – Remember the scene in the classic comedy “Anchorman” where San Diego’s competing news teams square off in a street brawl that ends with apparent fatalities, including an impaling with a trident?
Anchorman Ron Burgundy summed it up afterwards: “that escalated quickly!”
That’s a good description of Wednesday’s testy encounter between CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta and President Trump, which started with Acosta challenging the president’s claim that the refugee migrant march toward the US border amounted to a dangerous “invasion.” After some snippy back-and-forth, the president said, “I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN, and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.”
And it would have ended there, just another chapter in the often-tense Trump administration relationship with the press, if the White House hadn’t decided to reach for a trident.
Just hours after the press conference, presidential press secretary Sarah Sanders announced a highly unusual revocation of Acosta’s White House pass, explaining they would “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.” That was a reference to the intern’s efforts to wrest the microphone away from Acosta, which he successfully resisted, and Sanders’ tweeted statement was accompanied by a video purporting to show the reporter aggressively swatting the intern’s arm away.
CNN called the credential revocation an “unprecedented” move and “a threat to our democracy.” Said Acosta: “I was just trying to ask a question of the president at this press conference and it was obviously a question they didn’t like.”
But while Acosta is seen by some journalists as a bit of a grandstander who was unusually argumentative with the president in this case, there was broad outrage across ideological lines over Sanders justifying his punishment with a doctored video – apparently taken from a far-right-wing website – claiming to show Acosta getting physical with the intern.
“This is a test for all of us,” says Acosta. “I do think they’re trying to shut us down to some extent.”
Somehow, I doubt that. Media coverage is mother’s milk to this administration, and conflict with the media is one of it’s major selling points with its political base.
They shouldn’t be doctoring videos or pulling a reporter’s pass, but maybe it’s best to think of this flap as a journalist just doing his job, and a president just being himself.