Jim Acosta is a pundit who works for CNN. He was credentialed to attend White House press briefings, which he routinely used as opportunities to share his personal political views and animosity toward President Donald Trump. The situation with Acosta, known as a shameless grandstander who seeks personal attention rather than a journalist who seeks to cover the news, came to a head last week when he repeatedly violated decorum at the White House by offering personal opinions in the place of actual questions, fighting with the president, interrupting the president, and belligerently refusing to return the White House microphone to a staff member. The White House pulled his hard pass that gives him unfettered access to the White House press briefings and he and CNN sued President Trump, chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Sanders, deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine, Secret Service director Randolph Alles, and the Secret Service officer who took Acosta’s hard pass away.
Here’s why every single party to this story is wrong.
Jim Acosta Bears Most Of The Blame
CNN reporter Jim Acosta is such a troublous force inside the White House Briefing Room—a “rude, terrible person” as President Donald Trump recently put it—deserving of being banned from White House grounds, then why did Trump and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders routinely call on him during the televised question and answer periods at the White House over the past 22 months?
Had Acosta’s behavior truly offended them, Sanders and Trump could have permanently stifled the pesky reporter by treating him like a ghost, averting their gazes and picking other reporters during question time. Acosta couldn’t have done anything about it. Instead, Sanders and Trump regularly called on Acosta, counting on the likelihood that he would do that Acosta thing of speechifying and playing microphone hog as he attempts to turn a question into an extended back-and-forth. Sanders and Trump have pretended exasperation at Acosta’s posturing—posturing that hasn’t broken much news, by the way—but not so secretly they happily wallow in his pomposity. By getting Acosta to play the preening, self-aggrandizing, sanctimonious reporter and using him as the punching bag for the White House’s anti-press strategy, Sanders and Trump have created a unique public venue to exhibit their hatred for the “fake news” of CNN.
White House Shouldn’t Make Acosta A Martyr
It is not the job of the White House or President Trump to tell CNN how they are to manage their employees or affairs. Further, the White House has no business dictating how it’s covered and who covers it.
The White House can, of course, draw the line when members of the press begin accosting White House staff in inappropriate ways. The White House has tolerated Acosta’s behavior for years, no matter how ridiculous. The behavior only crossed the line when he belligerently refused to hand over the government’s microphone he’d been lent.
While CNN has departed from traditional news gathering into an “Orange Man Bad” cartoon version of a news operation, the White House should still allow CNN access, even if it feels the need to limit Acosta because of the threat he poses staff members.
Just from a strategic communications standpoint, however, Jim Acosta was the White House’s best asset as it attempts to convince the country that the media are not doing their jobs well. One could reasonable argue that one Jim Acosta grandstanding moment in front of cameras is worth a thousand “fake news” tweets by the President when it comes to making that case. Why turn him into a martyr or otherwise remove him from his special perch that shows the world that CNN and other major media are unable to report the news?